September 2, 2014
Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) Systems and Airbus to research use of fuel cells for commercial airliners
A new chapter has been opened in the quest to make commercial air transport more environmentally and economically sustainable, with the agreement by Airbus and South Africa’s National Aerospace Centre to jointly fund research by Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) into the application of fuel cells on airliners. The initial three-year project, which will be undertaken by HySA Systems Competence Centre at its University of the Western Cape research facility, was launched in Cape Town on September 2nd. With demand for air transport doubling every 15 years, the global airline industry will require nearly 30,000 new aircraft (over 100 seats) by 2032. Simultaneously, the dual factors of high jet fuel costs and industry commitments to halve 2005 CO2 emissions levels by 2050 are driving the search for alternative solutions to fossil-fuel based propulsion and energy sources. With this in mind, Airbus has identified hydrogen fuel cells as a future, emissions-free substitute to small gas turbine engines called Auxiliary Power Units (APUs), which are used for generating on-board electrical power and heat while the aircraft is on the ground. Almost every airliner designed and built since the advent of jet travel in the 1950s, has been equipped with an APU, which is located in the tapered tail cone section of the rear fuselage. Replacing the fossil-fuel powered APUs with hydrogen fuel cells would help achieve the goals of emission-free and low-noise aircraft operation.