Emission-free power supply on ground and improved efficiency in the air
Airbus’ research activities to integrate fuel cell technology as alternative energy source in commercial aircraft have been awarded with the ”GreenTec Award 2013” in the category “Aviation”. The “Multifunctional Fuel Cell Integration” analyses the replacement of the auxiliary power unit (APU) and the ram air turbine (RAT) by a multifunctional fuel cell. The awards ceremony with some 800 guests took place last Friday in Berlin, Germany.
“Airbus has always been a driver in making aviation more environmentally friendly and invests around 2bn€ per year in R&D to improve our aircraft’s performance. We are on track to meet the aviation industry’s short-term environmental targets that include sustainable and carbon neutral growth from 2020”, said Günter Butschek, Airbus Chief Operating Officer. “Fuel cells are one of the most promising “step change” technologies to make our aircraft even more efficient, cleaner and quieter. The recognition of our fuel cell project at the GreenTec Awards underlines the relevance of our activities. I thank our partners and congratulate the whole team on this great achievement.”
A fuel cell is an electrochemical device which produces electricity by combining hydrogen with oxygen. Pure water, heat and inert gas (mainly nitrogen) are the only by-products of this process. Airbus’ fuel cell research activities focus on ‘multifunctional fuel cell’ systems which not only supply the aircraft with electric power, but also make efficient use of the by-products in various aircraft systems. The electrical energy can be used both for conventional aircraft systems but also for main engine starting and emission-free autonomous ground operations at airports. In parallel, the inert nitrogen gas replaces common halon-based fire suppression systems for the cargo hold and may be used for inerting the fuel tanks. Finally, the water can be used for the water supply system of the aircraft. Another benefit is the significant reduction in overall aircraft weight – hence reducing fuel burn and emissions in flight – as well as reducing noise and emissions during ground operations at airports.
The GreenTec Awards are Europe’s most important environment and business awards. They are awarded yearly for projects on eco-management and environmentally friendly technologies. The jury is composed of experts from various areas like engineering, economy and media and is supported by representatives from the economy, science, politics and media.
Airbus constantly works on mitigating its environmental impact. Its research activities include the development of new and fuel-efficient aircraft like the A320neo and the A350 XWB, industry partnerships for the commercialization of sustainable aviation fuels, more efficient air traffic management and “perfect flight”-operations. In addition Airbus also considers the full lifecycle of an aircraft and environmentally optimizing all intermediate steps from manufacturing to end-of-life.
Airbus is a leading aircraft manufacturer offering a complete range of aircraft families, from 100 to well over 500 passenger seats, as well as the most modern, comprehensive and fuel-efficient product line on the market. Airbus is an EADS company.