Airbus completes first inflight testing of an emission-free fuel cell system
Fuel cell system showing the water tank and oxygen storage (photo: Airbus/H. Schmelzer)
Wed 20 Feb 2008 - Airbus has successfully tested a fuel cell system in flight as part of an ongoing research project to evaluate the potential use and environmental benefits of fuel cell technology and zero emissions power generation in civil aviation.
The hydrogen and oxygen based system generated up to 20kW of electricity, which in turn powered the Airbus A320 test aircraft’s back-up hydraulic and electric power systems, as well as operated the ailerons. During the flight test, the fuel cells produced around 10 litres of pure water. This by-product could be used in the future for aircraft water and waste systems, making the aircraft lighter and thus increasing the aircraft’s fuel efficiency.
Airbus has been working on fuel cell technology since 2005 in partnership with Michelin, Liebherr Aerospace and DLR, the German Aerospace Center. Following the successful testing, they are now looking to further develop the technology to replace other aircraft systems, such as the emergency power system and the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). This, says Airbus, would significantly reduce noise and emissions levels in and around airports.
“Fuel cells offer tremendous potential environmental benefits and operational savings,” said Patrick Gavin, Airbus Executive Vice President Engineering. “This is another example of Airbus providing leadership for an eco-efficient industry, one which creates value with less environmental impact.”