Plans have been unveiled by easyJet for a zero-emissions hydrogen fuel system for its aircraft.
The “revolutionary” system which could save around 50,000 tonnes of fuel and the associated CO2 emissions a year, according to the budget carrier.
The hybrid plane concept utilises a hydrogen fuel cell stowed in the aircraft's hold.
EasyJet will work with its industry partners and suppliers to apply the technology, with a trial set to take place later this year.
The 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 – similar to Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems found in Formula 1 cars.
The energy can then be used by aircraft – for example when taxiing - without needing to use their jet engines.
Due to the high frequency and short sector lengths of operations, around 4% of the airline’s total fuel consumed a year is used when aircraft are taxiing. EasyJet’s aircraft average 20 minutes of taxi time per flight – the equivalent of around four million miles a year – akin to travelling to the moon and back eight times.
Each aircraft would have 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 could remove the need for tugs to manoeuvre aircraft in and out of stands, 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 initiative emerged as airline set new targets for 2020 which will see a reduction of 7% over the next five years compared to its emissions today, which are 81.05 grams CO2 per passenger kilometre.
This follows a decline of 28% over the last 15 years.
A passenger's carbon footprint with the low fares carrier is 22% less than a one on a traditional airline, flying the same aircraft on the same route due to the latest technology, efficient operations and filling most of its seats, easyJet claims.
The airline runs a fleet of more than 240 Airbus A319s and A320s with an average age of six years old. The airline will start taking delivery of A320neo aircraft from June 2017 and the new aircraft will be around 13%-15% more fuel efficient than those they are replacing.
Engineering director, 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.”
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