Munich Airport is taking part in a project to evaluate the potential of hydrogen as a fuel source, initially using it to power operational ground vehicles from 1998.

The move constitutes the first operational use of environmentally friendly hydrogen in the air-transport field. The combustion of hydrogen generates only water and a small amount of nitrogen oxides as exhaust. While the first application is for ground vehicles, the fuel is also seen as a potential replacement for aviation fuels. Germany is one of the leading researchers into its use in aviation.

The airport's management company, FMG, is providing a site for a hydrogen-fuel farm to be built by a consortium of 13 companies. This will provide fuel for a VIP passenger vehicle, and for up to three apron buses for regular passengers. The farm will incorporate an electrolytic plant producing hydrogen gas.

According to FMG, the airport provides an ideal test site because its limited size means that vehicle operating radii are relatively small. A daily vehicle range of 130km (80 miles) on one tank of fuel should suffice, says FMG.

Fuel-farm construction is scheduled to start in the second quarter of 1998, with the introduction of the first vehicles due by the end of the year. Trials will continue throughout 2000.

Source: Flight International