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This page was published on 27/06/2007
Published: 27/06/2007

   Result of search

Last Update: 27-06-2007  
Related category(ies):
Energy  |  Environment  |  Transport

 

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Fuel-cell powered aircraft take to the skies

Fuel-cell powered manned intercity aircraft are now being developed thanks to the solid support of the EU, which has provided EUR 2.9 million in funding to the Environmentally Friendly Inter-City Aircraft powered by Fuel-Cells (ENFINCA-FC) project. Led by Giulio Romeo, Full Professor of Airplane Design and Aerospace Structures at Turin Polytechnic University, the project is part of the aeronautics and space priority of the Sixth Framework Programme. This project is helping Europeans prove their prowess on the global stage.

The Evektor EV55 plane. Evektor is one of the project partners. © ENFICA-FC & EVEKTOR
The Evektor EV55 plane. Evektor is one of the project partners.
© ENFICA-FC & EVEKTOR
In a statement, Professor Giulio said, 'Hydrogen and fuel-cell power technologies have now reached the point where they can be exploited to initiate a new era of propulsion systems for light aircraft and small commuter aircraft.' Two thirds of the project’s funding is being supplied by the European Commission in recognition of its commitment to the development of fuel-cell technology and alternatives to fossil fuels. The main aim of the project is to develop and validate the use of fuel-cell power technology as the propulsion system of light and small commuter aircraft. It is hoped that as a result of this research technologies created can be transferred in the future to larger aircraft that are entirely or almost completely electric.

The fuel-cell system will be installed in a selected aircraft which will be flight and performance tested for functionality and future applicability. The project’s results will be presented to the public at both on-ground and in-flight events at the end of the three-year research period. In the meantime, the Boeing Company and its industry partners in Europe are also designing a light aircraft that will be powered by a 20 kW fuel-cell and lithium-ion battery pack and expect to commence flight testing this year using a two-seater aircraft.

The two great advantages of employing fuel-cell technology are low noise and low emissions – features which are of primary importance for commuter aircraft take-off and landing, and landing in urban centres and populated areas. The ability to take off and land without breaking any of the noise abatement regulations set for small airfields in or near urban areas, will allow them to be used late at night when the regulations are most stringent.

The project consortium comprises 11 partners and brings together key figures from industry and academia in the design, development and validation of intercity aircraft, together with expertise in fuel-cells. As well as providing low noise and low emission solutions, the study will also highlight the technical and performance advantages that can be obtained through fuel-cell technology compared to existing conventional systems.

This takes place at a time when the airlines are coming under increasing pressure to reduce the amount of the greenhouse CO2 produced by their aircraft. Prof. Romeo underlined, 'No other project funded by the European Commission promises such ambitious results.'

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