In the age of environmental, social and governance priorities that dominate corporate strategic communications, building an aircraft that runs on today’s jet fuel looks like a step in the wrong direction, but Embraer is trying to bridge to a future where low-carbon flying is achievable — eventually.
Within Embraer’s recently revised turboprop design are some key long-term assumptions about the greening of aviation and the readiness and availability of significantly lower carbon propulsion.
Embraer is betting on all horses. Both its Eve eVTOL and military short-takeoff utility transport concepts are electric and hybrid electric, respectively. As for larger commercial aircraft, said Silva e Souza, Embraer’s commercial airplane marketing vice president, “The answer is that [electric and hybrid electric] are really far away for a 90-seater turboprop. Our conclusion is that hydrogen would be the final way for this size of aircraft.”
If the future is hydrogen-powered for large commercial aircraft, the path to getting there will be decidedly uneven. In the short term, Embraer’s design goal is to make a turboprop with traditional engines capable of running on 100% sustainable aviation fuels and appeal to reticent U.S. airlines.
Longer-term, said Silva e Souza, “We are designing an aircraft that we are thinking: Are we sure that 30 years from now it will be a hydrogen airplane? We don’t know, but in our best view today, we are designing an aircraft that is able to more easily accommodate the introduction of new technologies.”
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