Okay, so this story isn’t as exciting as one about a new hydrogen car prototype or a hydrogen-powered airplane but it is significant nonetheless. DLR and Airbus have designed a hydrogen-powered nose wheel for a large aircraft for the purpose of taxiing around the Hamburg, Germany airport.
The DLR A320 ATRA (Advanced Technology Research Aircraft) taxied successfully around the Hamburg Airport in a series of tests. Now, why does this rather mundane activity actually matter?
Besides cutting down on noise (fuel cells are whisper quiet), the hydrogen fuel cell nose wheel if equipped on the other airplanes would cut down emissions at the airport by 17 to 19-percent. During the test the 47-ton airplane was able to move from its stand to the end of the runway without running its engines.
This means a significant amount of jet fuel was saved during the taxiing process. The fuel cells use hydrogen and oxygen from the air to create electricity to power two electric motors built into the nose wheel rims.
According to DLR, “Through the use of fuel cells, the time for which the aircraft’s main engines are operated can be reduced, and hence the engine maintenance interval can be extended. On short-haul services, with up to seven take offs per day, using an electric drive for ground manoeuvring allows for a reduction in engine operating time of up to two hours per day.”
So, you see yes, it will be years before the engines of jumbo jets are powered by hydrogen fuel. But, reducing airport pollution by up to 19-percent by taxiing the aircraft cleanly and greenly is just around the corner. And, any use of a fuel cell on a vehicle that will reduce pollution that much is Okay in my book.