Airbus and German Aerospace Centre (DLR) perform research tests for fuel cell powered autonomous taxiing

Results feed aviation industries’ general understanding of technology and its potential .

Airbus is strongly engaged in developing greener aircraft and increasing the eco-efficiency of its modern product line. One of the most promising contributors for emission free ground operation is fuel cell technology. Together with its research partner DLR, Airbus is examining the potential of this technology, its integration into the aircraft and has already successfully performed the first flight test on a civil transport aircraft in 2008, where a fuel cell system provided power for the aircraft’s back-up systems.

In order to gain more details on the potential of fuel cell technology as supply for electric power in aircraft ground operation, a DLR designed technology demonstrator has been installed in the DLR owned A320 fuel cell test aircraft at the Airbus site in Hamburg. The technology demonstrator consists of a fuel cell powering an electric motor which drives the nose landing gear wheels allowing the aircraft to taxi autonomously. The objective of these tests is to further validate the potential of the integrated fuel cell technology for powering future aircraft functionalities such as autonomous taxiing. The data collected in the tests will be analysed by Airbus and the DLR to further develop the overall integration of this technology and potential further optimisation possibilities.

Within the joint R&T activities, Airbus is in charge of the overall aircraft system architecture and technology integration into the aircraft, whereas the DLR is driving some of the basic research activities for aerospace fuel cell technology. The landing gear itself with the integrated DLR-designed fuel cell powered motor is provided by Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg.

Airbus considers fuel cell technology as key contributor to the ACARE 2020 goals, which foresee the reduction of CO2 emissions by 50%, NOx emissions by 80% and noise by 50%. Consequently Airbus is pursuing engagement of industrial research partners in that field. In addition Airbus is strongly engaging in implementing and testing bio-fuel technology and actively supports the installation of local bio-fuel value-chains around the world. With regard to wider initiatives such as Air Traffic Management (ATM), Airbus co-operates with all the protagonists to deliver the best solutions for airlines and the environment. Airbus has a leading role in the SESAR programme to improve the efficiency of European ATM and works with teams involved in the NEXT GEN project designed to do the same for US ATM.


A fuel cell is a device which transforms the energy contained in hydrogen and Oxygen into electricity through a direct chemical conversion at a low temperature level without moving parts. The exhaust product is water, and in the case of an air-breathing system, oxygen depleted air. The electricity produced by fuel cells is cleaner and more efficient than combustion engines. In addition, the water and the oxygen depleted air (inert gas) can be used on the airplane to substitute the water and inerting systems.


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