Fuel cell plane shown in public

Airbus has made the first public presentation of its fuel cell activities at the Berlin Airshow this week, where an A320 research aircraft was on display.

The fuel cell demonstration project is a collaboration between Airbus, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and Michelin to investigate the potential of the technology to reduce emissions, fuel consumption and external noise.

Before travelling to Berlin the aircraft took part in a test flight over a dedicated test area in France, during which a fuel cell system provided power to the aircraft's electric motor pump, which is connected to the blue hydraulic circle and successfully moved the aircraft̵7;s ailerons, rudder and other flight control systems.

The fuel cell system an improved version, is more robust than the one used during flight tests last year and delivers a higher peak performance (more than 20kW of electrical power) to cover higher loads. It can deliver full power instantly in low operating temperatures.

The DLR research aircraft had to be equipped with a bespoke cargo bay to accommodate the 20kW fuel cell, which had to be connected to both the aircraft and the powered units. This posed the challenge of building a portable infrastructure for the supply of oxygen and hydrogen fuel, as well as the development and implementation of approved flight test measuring instruments. Using these instruments, the behaviour of the fuel cell system during the flight could be observed and analysed.

Image: Fuel cell system on the research aircraft

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