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Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Statement of Task." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Commercial Aircraft Propulsion and Energy Systems Research: Reducing Global Carbon Emissions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23490.
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A

Statement of Task

The National Research Council will convene an ad hoc committee to develop a national research agenda with the objective of reducing life-cycle carbon emissions from commercial aviation globally, even if air traffic grows as expected. The recommended research agenda will consist of a prioritized set of research projects of importance to the national and international commercial aeronautics community, and it will focus on advances in technologies and capabilities that can only be achieved through substantial research and technology development. Specifically, the committee will focus on new or more highly efficient propulsion (such as hybrid-electric) and energy systems (such as biofuels, batteries, and fuel cells). This includes consideration of the opportunities and challenges that changes in propulsion and energy technologies have for aircraft configurations, airline operational models, and infrastructure integration. Other key considerations include economic, regulatory and other policy opportunities and challenges that would be associated with a potential major change in propulsion and/or energy systems. This study is focused on propulsion and energy systems research; it will not develop recommendations for research in other areas such as airframe designs or air traffic management systems. In addition, the scope of this study excludes non-technology, policy approaches such as the imposition of carbon taxes, the use of carbon offsets, or legislative limits on carbon emissions.

Carbon emissions should be considered over the entire life-cycle of the energy system (from source to use) as well as potential life-cycle environmental impacts of changes to the vehicle/propulsion system (from production to use to disposal/recycle).

In particular the committee will:

  1. Consider the following:
    1. Current goals, guidance and plans by government, industry, and other relevant bodies to reduce carbon emissions globally from civil aviation in the face of increasing demand for air transportation.
    2. The current state of the art in lower-carbon propulsion and energy systems, lower-carbon propulsion and energy research efforts, and relevant research for other applications (for example, national defense, space, automotive, and marine applications) by industry, NASA, the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Energy, other federal agencies, academia, and non-U.S. research agencies and organizations.
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Statement of Task." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Commercial Aircraft Propulsion and Energy Systems Research: Reducing Global Carbon Emissions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23490.
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  1. Discuss the following:
    1. Research leading to advances in propulsion and energy system technologies that could be introduced into service during the next 10 to 30 years and that would reduce global carbon emissions by commercial aviation. Consider technologies that might contribute to (i) a steady pace of incremental advances and (ii) credible, step changes in advancing current capabilities.
    2. Synergistic opportunities and challenges for integration of advanced propulsion and energy systems with conventional and advanced airframe configurations, alternative airline concepts of operation, and with integration within the aviation and broader transportation and energy infrastructures.
    3. Other economic, technical, regulatory, and policy barriers, key challenges, and opportunities, both domestically and internationally, for implementing next-generation technologies for reducing global commercial aviation carbon emissions.
  2. Outline a potential national research agenda to advance propulsion and energy systems to reduce global carbon emissions from commercial aviation, as follows:
    1. A broad vision for an aviation system powered by low-carbon propulsion and energy systems.
    2. A range of the most promising propulsion and energy system options to achieve the vision and the major technical, economic, and policy challenges associated with those major options.
    3. A research agenda consisting of a set of research projects, grouped by priority, that if successful could enable the most promising options.
    4. The agenda should be developed with due consideration of the resources and organizational partnerships required to complete the projects included in the agenda.
    5. The research agenda should, as appropriate, describe the potential contributions and role of U.S. research organizations, including NASA, other federal agencies, industry, and academia.
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Statement of Task." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Commercial Aircraft Propulsion and Energy Systems Research: Reducing Global Carbon Emissions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23490.
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Page 97
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Statement of Task." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Commercial Aircraft Propulsion and Energy Systems Research: Reducing Global Carbon Emissions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23490.
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Page 98
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The primary human activities that release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere are the combustion of fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil) to generate electricity, the provision of energy for transportation, and as a consequence of some industrial processes. Although aviation CO2 emissions only make up approximately 2.0 to 2.5 percent of total global annual CO2 emissions, research to reduce CO2 emissions is urgent because (1) such reductions may be legislated even as commercial air travel grows, (2) because it takes new technology a long time to propagate into and through the aviation fleet, and (3) because of the ongoing impact of global CO2 emissions.

Commercial Aircraft Propulsion and Energy Systems Research develops a national research agenda for reducing CO2 emissions from commercial aviation. This report focuses on propulsion and energy technologies for reducing carbon emissions from large, commercial aircraft— single-aisle and twin-aisle aircraft that carry 100 or more passengers—because such aircraft account for more than 90 percent of global emissions from commercial aircraft. Moreover, while smaller aircraft also emit CO2, they make only a minor contribution to global emissions, and many technologies that reduce CO2 emissions for large aircraft also apply to smaller aircraft.

As commercial aviation continues to grow in terms of revenue-passenger miles and cargo ton miles, CO2 emissions are expected to increase. To reduce the contribution of aviation to climate change, it is essential to improve the effectiveness of ongoing efforts to reduce emissions and initiate research into new approaches.

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