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business models, strategies and technologies

Planes starting and stopping – easyJet energy recovery

Aircraft use vast amounts of energy to speed up when taking off, and again to slow down when landing. What if some of that energy could be recovered?

easyJet is a British low-cost airline carrier based at London Luton Airport. In February 2016, the company revealed plans for an innovative hydrogen fuel cell system designed to do away with the need for aircraft to use their engines for taxiing.

Developed in collaboration with students at Cranfield University in the UK, the idea is interesting in itself, but perhaps even more so for its wider perspectives for recovering and recycling energy in the fuel-guzzling world of aviation.

easyJet hybrid taxiing system

easyJet hybrid taxiing system

Reducing carbon footprints

easyJet operates with a short-haul, high-frequency business model. According to the carrier, this means something like 4% of its planes’ total fuel consumption takes place between the runway and terminal at the start and end of flights – with substantial impacts on carbon footprints as well as operating costs.

The innovative system proposed for helping tackle this uses a combination of a hydrogen fuel cell and lightweight batteries installed in the aircraft’s hold. The system captures some of the substantial energy from the aircraft braking as it lands, and then uses this input to charge the batteries.

This captured energy is then used to power electric motors mounted in the aircraft’s main undercarriage wheels, so that the aircraft can taxi and manoeuvre around the airport without using its engines.

Rethinking ground handling

In the longer term, systems like this would also roll back –  and perhaps even do away with – the need for tugs to manoeuvre aircraft in and out of their stands as well as elsewhere around the airport, further reducing emissions and resulting in more efficient aircraft turnarounds.

Less ground handling traffic and a more energy-efficient on-apron infrastructure would probably pave the way to to numerous other knock-on benefits, as well as opportunities for rethinking certain aspects of ground handling anywhere planes need to be moved around.

Entering a two-way street of energy recovery

Aircraft use vast amounts of energy to speed up when taking off, and to slow down when landing.  All these energy inputs and energy dumps leave a big carbon footprint, as well as bumping up costs. What if some of that valuable energy could be recovered and recycled? The technology now exists, but the mindset hasn’t really been applied to aircraft on any major scale. Yet.

Aviation is a long way ahead with many technologies, but it’s also an industry with a big legacy-thinking element lurking beneath the high-profile waterline. Innovation seems to lie most in the details, because “customers” tend to have one particular perception about planes and how they’re configured and engineered..



External info
http://atwonline.com/eco-aviation/easyjet-trial-new-taxiing-concept http://www.easyjet.com/en/