A fuel cell engine fuelled by hydrogen is being developed by Airbus. To equip its zero-emission aircraft that will go into service by 2035, the propulsion system is being looked at as one of the potential alternatives.
Airbus will start ground and flight testing this fuel cell engine architecture onboard its ZEROe demonstrator aircraft towards the middle of the decade. The A380 MSN1 flight test aircraft for new hydrogen technologies is currently being modified to carry liquid hydrogen tanks and their associated distribution systems.
Due to the fact that it produces water as its main byproduct when produced from renewable energy sources, hydrogen has been selected by Airbus as one of the most promising choices to fuel zero-emission aircraft.
Hydrogen can be utilised as an aeroplane propulsion fuel in two different methods. To power a propeller engine, hydrogen is first used in a gas turbine, then it is converted into energy in fuel cells. In a hybrid-electric architecture, fuel cells can be connected with a hydrogen gas turbine in place of batteries.
Hydrogen fuel cells may be scaled up by increasing their power output, especially when they are stacked. Additionally, an engine driven by a hydrogen fuel cell emits zero NOx or contrails, providing further advantages for decarbonization.
Airbus has been exploring the possibilities of fuel cell propulsion systems for aviation for some time. In October 2020, Airbus created Aerostack, a joint venture with ElringKlinger, a company with over 20 years of experience as both a fuel cell systems and component supplier. In December 2020, Airbus presented its pod-concept which included six removable fuel cell propeller propulsion systems.
To find more about Airbus’ fuel cell engine and demonstrator, click here.