As the aviation industry looks for new and unique ways to meet emissions goals, European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has unveiled its latest plans to reduce its carbon emissions – starting at assembly.
From ocean to sky
While aviation seems centered on the skies, extensive groundwork and international cooperation is required to get any new aircraft operational, something Airbus has slowly been targeting.
On Wednesday, the Toulouse-based manufacturer announced it would renew its entire chartered sea fleet used to transport in-production aircraft between its factories in Europe and the United States, adding three low-emission roll-on/roll-off ships featuring wind-propulsion to reduce its transatlantic carbon emissions by over half before the end of the decade.
All ships will be equipped with six Flettner rotors, providing lift through wind power to propel it forward, and two dual-fuel engines powered by a mix of standard maritime diesel and e-methanol.
The new vessels are set to be designed and developed by Louis Dreyfus Amateurs, eventually entering service with Airbus in 2026 on transatlantic journeys between Saint-Nazaire’s port in France and the Airbus final assembly line in Mobile, Alabama.
In a statement, Head of Sustainability and Environment at Airbus, Nicolas Chrétien, clarified the project goals, noting its potential to support Airbus’ sustainability efforts from the ground up.
“The latest generation of vessels proposed by Louis Dreyfus Armateurs are more fuel efficient than their predecessors, using cutting-edge technologies like wind-assisted propulsion. This demonstrates our determination to lead the way in decarbonising our sector by innovating not just in aviation, but across all our industrial operations.”
One of its current ships, Ville de Bordeaux, chartered by Louis Dreyfus Armatures, is already earmarked for the green upgrades. Three eSAILs will be equipped on the vessel by Barcelona-based engineers bound4blue, slashing emissions by 1,800 tons. A sea trial for the project is expected to occur in early 2024. In a statement shared in September, Chrétien explained,
“We at Airbus have been studying wind-assisted technologies as a potential energy source for our maritime operations for many years… This technology looks promising and we are eager to start testing it in real conditions by the end of the year.”
The overhaul is also set to add a new cargo deck, providing further space for Airbus’ subassembly sets, such as wings, fuselages, pylons, and tailplanes, to reduce the number of trips required to transport its aircraft.
Other recent sustainability initiatives from Airbus have included investments in sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) and carbon removal systems. Earlier this month, the manufacturer announced it would partner with European low-cost carrier easyJet for its Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage (DACCS) imitative.
The program offers airlines carbon removal credits to support individual green goals, with DACCS technology filtering out and removing CO2 from the air via high-power extractor fans. Once removed, the excess gasses are stored underground in specialist reservoirs. Though not directly eliminating greenhouse gases produced by air travel, the system offers an alternative to ensure low carbon emissions and airlines can meet net-zero pledges.
This article originally appeared on Simply Flying.