This Discount Airline is Testing Hydrogen Fuel Cells, Just Like Formula 1

A plane of the low cost airline carrier EasyJet takes off on December 29, 2014 at Lille-Lesquin airport. AFP PHOTO PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Photograph by Philippe Huguen — AFP/Getty Images

Europe’s second biggest discount airline is taking a page from Formula 1 racing and plans to test a hydrogen fuel cell system in its planes.

The Financial Times reports that the hydrogen fuel cell technology could save EasyJet 50,000 tons of fuel annually. That could cut the airline’s fuel bill by up to $35 million per year as part of its battle to keep fares low and compete against Ryanair, Europe’s biggest discount airline.

The new technology, which involves a fuel cell capturing energy from the aircraft’s brakes when it lands, would also help reduce carbon emissions. The system would be similar to the kinetic energy recovery system in Formula 1 engines, which converts energy generated during braking into electricity that drivers can use to accelerate.

EasyJet planes with this technology would be able to taxi on runways without using their jet engines. The airline estimates that taxing accounts for about 4% of its fuel consumption.

“At EasyJet, we are continuing to apply the use of new digital and engineering technologies across the airline,” Ian Davies, the head of engineering at EasyJet, told the FT. He called the hybrid plane concept a “vision of the future.”

At an event in Venice on Tuesday, EasyJet said it would begin ground-based trials of an Airbus fitted with a hydrogen cell in its hold later this year. EasyJet has a fleet of more than 200 Airbus A319s and A320s.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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