EasyJet to trial hydrogen cells on hybrid planes
Hydrogen fuel for airborne vehicles has something of a PR problem – one that dates back 79 years. The Hindenburg disaster has probably done more than anything else to delay the use of hydrogen in transport, which is a huge shame given the advantages the fuel has: chiefly, how green it is.
Of course, the hydrogen fuel cells used in a handful of vehicles today are
Of course, the hydrogen fuel cells used in a handful of vehicles today area world away from the dangers of the Hindenburg, but the reputation persists. The fuel is about to get a boost from an unlikely source, as budget airline EasyJet has announced it plans to test hydrogen cells in its planes – a move the company claims could save somewhere in the region of £20,000,000 and 50,000 tonnes of fuel per year, if applied to the entire fleet.
The planes, decked out with a hydrogen fuel cell in partnership with Cranfield University, will also be designed to collect energy through solar panels and kinetic energy as the planes brake on the runway through “regenerative braking”. The water, produced as a waste product from the hydrogen cells, would be fresh enough to use as onboard drinking water, according to the company’s head of engineering, Ian Davies.
50,000 tonnes of fuel per year may sound like a lot, but if you scale it up to EasyJet’s full fleet, it’s not that much. Why? Because the hydrogen cell would only be intended to power the planes while taking off and landing, which is around 4% of the airline’s total fuel consumption.
Still, it’s an interesting starting point. Taxiing takes about 20 minutes per journey in total and, if scaled up to the entire fleet, that’s a whopping four million miles per year. EasyJet is hoping to roll out trials later this year, but you’re unlikely to see any passengers on the planes for a few years. “We’re banking on a three- to five-year proof of concept, and after that hopefully we can persuade mainstream manufacturers to adopt it in the next five to 15 years,” Davies told CNN.
A successful trial could be a small, but significant step towards reducing carbon emissions in air travel. That said, our whole transportation system could be transformed in the next 15 years.
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Image: Luca Mascaro used under Creative Commons
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