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easyJet to trial electric taxi system in aircraft; H2 fuel cells, batteries and wheel motors

European carrier easyJet plans to test an electric taxi system later this year that utilizes a hydrogen fuel cell stowed in the hold, batteries charged by regenerative braking, and electric wheel motors. The energy can then be used by the aircraft when taxiing without needing to use the jet engines. Due to the high frequency and short sector lengths of easyJet’s operations, around 4% of the airline’s total fuel consumed annually is used when the airline’s aircraft are taxiing.

Electronics and system controllers would give pilots total control of the aircraft’s speed, direction and braking during taxi operations. The system would therefore reduce, if not remove altogether, the need for tugs to maneuver aircraft in and out of stands, delivering more efficient turnaround times and increased on-time performance.

The only waste product is fresh clean water which could be used to refill the aircraft’s water system throughout the flight.

easyJet has set new targets for 2020 which will see a reduction of 7% over the next five years compared to its emissions today, which are 81.05 grams CO2 per passenger kilometer. This follows a decrease of 28% over the last 15 years. An easyJet passenger’s carbon footprint is 22% less than a passenger on a traditional airline, flying the same aircraft on the same route, the carrier said.

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For the “hybrid” plane concept, took inspiration from students at Cranfield University who were asked to develop ideas for what air travel might look like in twenty years’ time, as part of a competition to celebrate easyJet’s 20th birthday in November 2015.

easyJet and Cranfield University signed a three-year strategic partnership agreement last year to share innovation and knowledge.

easyJet operates a fleet of over 240 Airbus A319s and A320s with an average age of just 6 years. The airline will start taking delivery of A320neo aircraft from June 2017 and the new planes will be around 13% - 15% more fuel efficient than the planes they are replacing.

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