Airbus launches engine-free taxi option for A320neo

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Airbus has agreed to offer the A320neo with an optional feature that saves fuel by moving the aircraft on the ground using a 100kW-class electric power system developed jointly by Safran and Honeywell.

The Airbus decision launches the Safran-Honeywell Green Taxi technology on the re-engined variant and opens the door for future retrofits on all A320s, said Alain Coutrot, Safran's deputy director of research and technology, speaking on the sidelines of the Aero Montreal supply chain forum.

"If we can implement that on the [A320]neo," Coutrot said, "we will demonstrate it is achieveable on any A320."

The Safran-Honeywell joint venture is also in early talks with Boeing to install the Green Taxi system on the re-engined 737 Max, he said.

The Green Taxi system adds a new generator to the A320neo's auxiliary power unit, which feeds roughly 100kW of power to two electric motors installed on both sets of main wheels. Placing the motors on the main wheels differs from a competing product designed by WheelTug, where a single motor is installed on the nose wheel.

The nose wheel approach will not work in all airport environments, Coutrot said: "You need to have the motors on the main wheels."

Safran and Honeywell are still finalising the joint venture agreement that will define the work split between the two companies. The joint venture is being modelled on the CFM International joint venture, Coutrot said. For CFM, Safran subsidiary Snecma builds the low pressure section of the CFM56 and Leap-1B engines in France, and General Electric builds the high pressure section and assembles both sections in the US.