Did you think that fuel cells were the power source of the future? Well guess what, Airbus plans to use them to power airplanes now! Well not completely, but this is the first step. Currently available fuel cells are no match for the mighty jet engine, but fuel cells can be used to decrease our carbon footprint .
The first step was to choosing a plane from Airbus’s brigade and the A320 was shortlisted to show the operational efficiency of the technology. Airbus has planned a test flight of the new and improved fuel cell system which has the capability to bring down the aircraft’s fuel consumption down by at least 15% by powering the aircraft’s non propulsion systems. This includes the environmental controls, the lighting and the entertainment systems. To meet the power demand, a 90-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell was installed. The aviation giant plans to commence test flights by 2015.
Plans are in place to replace all non propulsion systems from the aircraft so that there is no need for the engine when the plane is on the ground. On a stopover, the plane presently uses the auxiliary power unit or the APU which is present at the rear of the plane, it uses kerosene to generate the power. Airbus plans to replace it with a fuel cell that will make the power generation of power noiseless and emission free. The end products that we get from the fuel cell are distilled water and inert gases. The distilled water that is produced will be used to fill up the onboard water tanks and the inert gases would be used in the fire protection system. The system will prove to a blessing for the ground crew too, as there will be lesser moving parts so will be the need for maintenance.
The aviation industry, being a major contributor of greenhouse gases, can surely hope gain huge carbon credits by using this technology.