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Intelligent Energy unveils multi-functional fuel cell system for Airbus

The UK-based fuel cell developer Intelligent Energy has provided the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus with a multi-functional fuel cell auxiliary power unit (APU), intended for onboard power and other loads in future commercial airliners. The Intelligent Energy APU system was unveiled at the recent opening of the Aerotec Fuel Cell Test Center in Hamburg, Germany.

The clean APU is designed around the Intelligent Energy common core fuel cell systems already utilized in motive programs such as the Intelligent Energy powered fuel cell hybrid London taxi, and in distributed power work with Scottish and Southern Energy.

Highly efficient fuel cells could provide power for various applications in the aircraft cabin, relieving the drain on the main engines. They will reduce CO2 production both in the air and on the ground at airports, making a significant contribution to reducing emissions.

‘The advantage of incorporating hydrogen fuel cell technology into aviation is multi-faceted, and part of the movement towards ‘more electric’ aircraft,’ comments Henri Winand, CEO of Intelligent Energy. ‘Not only do fuel cells reduce emissions and decrease fuel consumption, but as we move to a lower-carbon economy, the airlines can diversify their fuel supply base, becoming less exposed to volatility in fuel prices.’

Winand continues: ‘Intelligent Energy operates a focused, working capital-efficient ‘design once, deploy many times’ market development approach for our power systems, which allows our customers operating in different market segments to benefit from commercialization in other non competing markets.’

In August, Dr Gerald Weber, Managing Director of Operations at Airbus GmbH, formally opened the Aerotec Fuel Cell Test Center, which was established to test fuel cell systems for use onboard commercial aircraft.

Airbus has already been investigating how hydrogen fuel cells can provide power for aircraft, and has previously tested a hydrogen and oxygen-based fuel cell system onboard its A320 test aircraft. The fuel cell system powers the aircraft’s backup hydraulic and electric power systems, as well as operating the ailerons.

In February 2008, using a similar type of power system, Intelligent Energy first demonstrated its aviation credentials when it provided the system to Boeing which powered the world’s first manned fuel cell aircraft.

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