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News Link • Energy

Fuel Cells Take to the Runway

• Duncan Graham-Rowe via TechnologyReview.com
 

Hydrogen fuel cells are nowhere near powerful enough to replace a commercial aircraft's engines, but that doesn't mean they can't help make air travel cleaner and more efficient.

Airbus plans flight tests of a fuel-cell system that could reduce fuel consumption by as much as 15 percent simply by powering an aircraft's nonpropulsion systems—such as the lights, the entertainment system, and the environmental controls.

The 90-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell will be installed into an A320 owned by the German Aerospace Center with the aim of commencing test flights by 2015.
 
 The fuel cell will act as an auxiliary power source, says Jeff Rolf, vice president of business development and global services at Cleveland, Ohio-based Parker Aerospace, which is developing the system with Airbus. The idea is to remove the need to run the engines when the plane is on the ground, and to reduce the drain normally placed on the engines by nonpropulsion systems during flight.

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