UK low-cost carrier EasyJet is banking on a 700kg new taxiing system to save it about 50,000t of fuel per year.
The concept envisages motors in the main gear powered by a hydrogen fuel cell installed in the hold, which charges using energy captured from the brakes upon landing.
Pilots will be able to manoeuvre on the tarmac using the motors instead of their main engines, taxiing with which currently accounts for about 4% of the airline's fuel bill and about 20min of each aircraft's journey time.
EasyJet promises that the estimated fuel savings do account for the extra weight of the new system.
And although it declined to say how much a fleet-wide upgrade of its Airbus A319s and A320s would cost, the airline is sure that the technology will pay for itself.
"We have done the calculations and are confident that over the lifetime of the aircraft, the fuel benefits will make the system cost-effective," says EasyJet.
Asked why it had not opted for an off-the-shelf solution, such as WheelTug's nose-gear-mounted motor, the carrier said a zero-emissions system was "best designed from the ground up".
Water will be the only waste from the hydrogen fuel cell and could be used to replenish the aircraft's supplies.
Working with the UK's Cranfield University, EasyJet plans to unveil a mock-up and a working example of the new system in the coming months.
Source: Cirium Dashboard