Airbus ZEROe tests new hydrogen energy system for aircraftFebruary 2, 2024
This represents an important move ahead in reaching its goal to fly H2 planes by 2035.
A test has now been successfully completed by the Airbus ZEROe team on its hydrogen energy propulsion system created for use in fuel cell aircraft.
The new system is known as the “iron pod” and involves an electric motor and H2 fuel cell.
The Iron Pod was designed for aircraft running an electric motor powered by hydrogen energy through a fuel cell, and also includes the cooling and range of control equipment. Though there had already been a separate 1.2 megawatts test run by Airbus on this system back in June 2023, and another 1-megawatt test conducted in October, this most recent successful testing represented the first time the complete system was operational at its 1.2 megawatts.
“It was a huge moment for us because the architecture and design principles of the system are the same as those that we will see in the final design,” said ZEROe project head of testing and demonstration Mathias Andriamisaina. “The complete power channel was run at 1.2 megawatts, the power we aim to test on our A380 demonstrator.”
The recent hydrogen energy system test brought the components together to study their operation.
According to Airbus, by testing the complete systems combined and understanding how they work together, the team will be best able to determine how to move forward in this project.
“This process is how we learn what changes need to be made to make the technology flight-worthy,” explained ZEROe head of fuel cell propulsion systems Hauke Peer-Lüedders. “We measure how the propulsion system as a whole works by testing the power needed for several different flight phases, such as takeoff, where we are reaching maximum power levels, and cruising, when we use less power but over a longer period of time.”
According to Airbus, it intends to keep up the latest iron pod version testing throughout 2024 before it takes the next steps forward to optimize it for flight, ground testing, and Airbus A380 flight testing. That last test is slated for 2026. If this testing remains on track, the company wants to have aircraft powered by hydrogen energy flying by 2035.