|Jihlavan Airplanes Rapid 200. Jihlavan is one of the project partners.|
A European research project, led by Turin Polytechnic University, is designing a fuel-cell powered, manned inter-city aircraft.
The Environmentally Friendly Inter-City Aircraft powered by Fuel Cells (ENFICA-FC) project will receive €2.9 million (US$3.9 million) in funding from the European Union as part of the aeronautics and space priority of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).
The fuel cell system will be installed in selected aircraft, which will be flight and performance tested as a proof-of-concept for future applicability in other inter-city aircraft. The results of the project will be presented at both on-ground and in-flight public events at the end of the three-year research project.
Boeing and industry partners in Europe are also developing a light aircraft powered only by a 20 kW fuel cell and a lithium-ion battery pack. The Boeing team expects to begin its flight testing this year. (Earlier post.)
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.—Romeo Giulio, Turin Polytechnic University and project coordinator.
The project will initially use a certified two-seat aircraft. The team will use an Intelligent Energy fuel cell system combined with high-efficiency brushless electric motors and an optimized propeller design. The goal is a one-hour flight to validate the performance of an all-electric system.
Among the advantages of deploying hydrogen fuel cell technology in light aircraft would be low noise and low emissions—features which are particularly important for commuter airplanes, which usually take off and land in urban areas.
The possibility to take off and land without contravening the noise abatement regulations set for small airfields, in urban areas and near population centers, will allow the use of airfields late at night, when noise regulations are the most stringent.
Partners in the project include: Politecnico di Torino; METEC; Israel Aircraft Industries; Intelligent Energy; Brno University of Technology; Evektor; Jihlavan Airplane; Air Products; and Université Libre de Bruxelles.