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easyJet reveals concept designs for a hybrid aircraft

easyJet reveals concept designs for a hybrid aircraft

In a bid to cut the airline’s carbon footprint, easyJet has unveiled plans for a revolutionary zero emissions hydrogen fuel system for its aircraft. This development could potentially save around 50,000 tonnes of fuel, and subsequently the associated CO2 emissions each year. The airline’s strategy is spread over the next 5 years, and aims to see an emissions reduction of 7% compared to today’s emissions, which are currently 81.05 grams CO2 per passenger kilometre.

The concept idea was inspired by students attending Cranfield University, who were given a project to develop ideas for what they thought air travel may look like in 20 years times. The concept has been developed by easyJet’s engineering director Ian Davies and his team working with some of the ideas from students combined with easyJet’s own conceptual thinking. Now, easyJet plan to work with industry partners and suppliers to adapt the suggestions and apply the new technology much sooner than expected, anticipating a trial to take place later in 2016.

What is the concept?

The concept includes the additional use of a hydrogen fuel cell stowed in the aircraft’s hold, creating a hybrid aircraft. This innovative 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 (much like the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) found in Formula 1 cars).

The energy can then be used by the aircraft – for example when taxying – without needing to use their 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, creating the "Green Taxi System". easyJet’s full fleet of aircraft average approximately 20 minutes of taxi time per flight, which totals to approximately four million miles a year (akin to travelling to the moon and back eight times!).

EasyJet explained: "Each aircraft would have power motors in their main wheels and power 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, if not remove altogether, 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.”