EasyJet to trial hydrogen fuel cells for future hybrid aircraft

2 Feb 2016

As part of a growing movement amongst airlines to cut fuel costs and limit damage to the environment, EasyJet has announced it’s to trial hydrogen fuel cells in its aircraft.

EasyJet is just one of many airlines looking to develop new transportation technologies in its aircraft, many of which, while still in perfect order, are around two decades old.

NASA said recently that it was putting a lot of its resources towards building hybrid commercial aircraft by testing a design that would place an electric engine at the rear of the plane to work in tandem with the traditional jet engines.

And now, according to The Guardian, EasyJet is working with UK researchers to see about the potential of including hydrogen fuel cells that would reduce jet fuel consumption by as much as 50,000 tonnes per year for its fleet.

Rather than using these hydrogen fuel cells mid-flight, however, EasyJet would plan on using them during taxiing on the runway, which, it says, consumes 4pc of the plane’s fuel for each journey, or the equivalent of 20 minutes of flying time.

Trials by end of the year

Based on the concept being developed at Cranfield University, the fuel cell would be placed in the aircraft’s hold with energy being generated in a similar way to how electric vehicles (EVs) do, that being, capturing and storing energy when the aircraft engages its brakes.

With the first trials expected to get underway by the end of year, EasyJet says it also plays into its plans to reduce the company’s overall CO2 emissions by 7pc by the end of the decade.

Speaking of the concept, EasyJet’s head of engineering, Ian Davies, said: “We are continuing to apply the use of new digital and engineering technologies across the airline. The hybrid plane concept we are announcing today is both a vision of the future and a challenge to our partners and suppliers to continue to push the boundaries towards reducing our carbon emissions.”

EasyJet aircraft image via hirotomo t/Flickr

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic