Airbus has carried out its first in-flight test of a fuel cell system which it says could eventually replace auxiliary power units (APUs) and other aircraft systems.
CEO Tom Enders said at the Singapore Airshow today that the test took place yesterday and it was the first time the energy source was used to power an aircraft’s back-up hydraulic and electric power systems.
Airbus says the hydrogen- and oxygen-based system was developed with Michelin and was tested on an A320 test aircraft which is owned by German aerospace centre DLR. Airbus says it has been working on fuel cell technology with the two partners as well as with Liebherr Aerospace since 2005.
“Fuel cells are emission free and the by-product, which is water, could be used for the aircraft water and waste systems, making the aircraft lighter and thus increasing the aircraft’s fuel efficiency,” it says.
“This achievement will enable Airbus and its partners to further develop ways to implement fuel cell technology for replacing other aircraft systems such as the emergency power systems and the auxiliary power unit. This would significantly reduce the noise and emission levels in and around airports.”
Airbus says that during the test, the system generated up to 20kW of electrical power and produced around 10 litres of pure water. It powered the aircraft’s electric motor pump and back-up hydraulic circuit and operated the ailerons.
“The system’s robustness was confirmed at high gravity loads during turns and zero gravity aircraft manoeuvres,” it adds.