By February 3, 2016 Read More →

easyJet announces plan for ‘hybrid’ planes using hydrogen fuel cells

easyJet says the technology could save fuel, CO2 emissions


The easyJet and Cranfield University technology would allow energy captured in the aircraft’s hydrogen fuel cells to power the aircraft during taxi operations.

On Tuesday, European airline easyJet unveiled plans for a 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 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.

easyJet says the energy can then be used by the aircraft, for example when taxiing, without needing to use its jet engines.  About four per cent of the airline’s total fuel consumed annually is used during taxi operations.  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.

“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”, says Ian Davies, head of easyJet Engineering.

Each jet would have motors in the main wheels and electronics and system controllers that would give the pilots total control of the aircraft’s speed, direction and braking during taxi operations.  This would 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.

easyJet says the only waste product is fresh clean water which could be used to refill the aircraft’s water system throughout the flight.

The concept has been developed by Davies and his team working with some of the ideas from students at Cranfield University in the UK.

Dr. Craig Lawson, Lecturer, Centre of Aeronautics at Cranfield University says “Our students have showcased some exciting ideas for the 2035 vision of the airline industry through The Future of Flight competition, presenting environmental solutions, operational improvements and ideas to enhance the customer experience. We’re looking forward to developing this concept further.”

The company says it is committed to reducing its passengers’ carbon footprint and has 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.

Over the last 15 years, passengers’ carbon footprint has dropped by 28 percent.

According to easyJet, along with efficient operations, the airline invests in the latest technology and works to fill most of its seats which means an easyJet passenger’s carbon footprint is 22 per cent less than a passenger on a traditional airline, flying the same aircraft on the same route.

Ian Davies, head of easyJet engineering said “we are continuing to apply the use of new digital and engineering technologies across the airline”.

Beginning in June of 2017, easyJet will start taking delivery of A320neo aircraft.  The company says the new planes will be around 13% – 15% more fuel efficient than the planes they are replacing.


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