Airbus is to modify an A330-200 to explore the potential for hydrogen fuel cells to power systems other than those directly related to the main engines.

Lighting, avionics and air conditioning are driven by the auxiliary power unit. But Airbus chief technical officer Sabine Klauke believes 5% of the fuel consumption on aircraft could be saved if replaced by hydrogen-based electrification.

“Powering using fuel cells could be promising,” she says.

Airbus future technology initiative UpNext is to develop a new demonstrator, based on a modified A330-200, to test architecture for non-propulsive energy.

Two air compressors will be fitted in the forward fuselage, with three gaseous hydrogen tanks in the aft, and the APU will be replaced by a hydrogen fuel-cell system, feeding a power distribution network.

HyPower internal-c-Airbus

Source: Airbus UpNext

HyPower will have forward compressors and aft hydrogen tanks, with fuel-cells in the tail cone

UpNext chief executive Michael Aguello says the demonstrator is branded ‘HyPower’ and will look to reduce emissions and noise generated by conventional APUs.

The three-year programme involves design and integration work in the first year, ground-testing the A330 in the second, and flight tests in the third.

“Ultimately we want to fly fast and we need to have permits to fly,” says Aguello. “This is a great exercise to learn, as well, the certification efforts that we require to get hydrogen safely into civil aviation.”

Airbus will undertake certification work with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency to secure approvals to fly the modified jet. The aircraft will use 10kg of gaseous hydrogen and conduct flights of 1h under realistic conditions, at altitudes up to 25,000ft.

UpNext will obtain a production system for renewable hydrogen with which to supply the A330.

Aguello says HyPower will be led from UpNext’s facilities in Spain, and it is co-operating with the Spanish government and other partners on the programme.