easyJet unveiled plans for a revolutionary zero emissions hydrogen fuel system for its aircraft which could save around 50,000 tonnes of fuel and the associated CO2 emissions per year. The hybrid concept utilizes a hydrogen fuel cell stowed in the aircraft’s hold. This zero-emissions system allows energy to be captured as the aircraft brakes on landing and is used to charge the system’s lightweight batteries when the aircraft is on the ground.
The energy can be used by the aircraft – for example when taxiing – without needing to use jet engines. Due to the high frequency and short sector lengths of easyJet’s operations, around 4% of the airline’s total fuel consumed annually is used when the airline’s aircraft are taxiing. easyJet’s aircraft average 20 minutes of taxi time per flight – the equivalent of around four million miles a year.
Each aircraft would have electric motors in their main wheels and electronics and system controllers would give pilots total control of the aircraft’s speed, direction and braking during taxi operations. The system would therefore reduce the need for tugs to maneuver aircraft in and out of gates, delivering more efficient turnaround times and increased on time performance. The only waste product is fresh clean water which could be used to refill the aircraft’s water system throughout the flight.
The idea of using fuel-cells is novel. So far so good. But once again we see the e-taxi idea being applied to the main wheels. This is similar to the EGTS system which we have written about before. For those who don’t recall what the challenges are, we recommend another read. The questions we have not seen answered yet – how safe is it to place electric motors next to hot brakes? How can one be sure the braking of the aircraft is not compromised? These are questions have certainly been asked by others.