On its way to developing greener aircraft and significantly reducing emissions, Airbus is developing fuel cell technology as an alternative energy source for on-ground and in-flight electrical power supply. Based on its ongoing engagement with global research programs, Airbus is now extending the scope of its fuel cell R&T activities by partnering with Parker Aerospace, an operating segment of Parker Hannifin Corporation (NYSE:PH), a longtime Airbus supplier with special competencies in multifunctional system integration.
Within this partnership Airbus will be responsible for the overall aircraft system architecture and technology integration into the aircraft, and Parker will supply the multifunctional fuel cell system and manage different subsystem suppliers.
The objective of the cooperation is the development of a technology demonstrator followed by a joint flight test campaign for the middle of the decade, including operational and infrastructural tests. With Parker Aerospace involved in the project from this earliest phase, industrialisation can be considered throughout the development of the process, rather than at the end.
“Airbus is pursuing engagement of competent industrial research partners in the field of fuel cell applications,” says Axel Krein, Senior Vice President Research & Technology at Airbus. “With Parker Aerospace we have a strong partner with excellent competencies in multifunctional system integration. Their engagement in this research activity underlines the potential of fuel cell technology as an alternative energy source for electrical on-board power generation. Together we are now entering a joint development phase, bringing fuel cell research activities for our industry on a global level and shape the future of the next generation of eco-efficient airplanes.”
“Parker is pleased to be recognized by Airbus for our broad technology competency,” said Mark Czaja, Group Vice President of Technology and Innovation for Parker Aerospace. “Airbus is an industry leader in the implementation of eco-efficient fuel cell technologies for aircraft. By leveraging our integration capabilities across the many aircraft systems we develop, together we can advance aircraft fuel cell technology in support of this game-changing flight test demonstration program.”
Airbus considers fuel cell technology as a key contributor to meeting the ACARE 2020 goals, which foresee the reduction of CO2 emissions by 50%, NOx emissions by 80% and noise by 50%. Together with its research partners, Airbus successfully performed the first flight test on a civil transport aircraft in 2008, where a fuel cell system provided power for the aircraft’s back-up systems. As a next step, Airbus is currently investigating the application of multifunctional fuel cells as a replacement for the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) to power any electrical consumer of the aircraft, e.g., the cabin. This would enable the replacement of ground power units leading to an emission free ground operation and significantly reduce mission fuel consumption.