EasyJet’s hybrid airplanes: The future of low-emissions flying?


EasyJet has unveiled plans to cut carbon emissions by using high-tech hydrogen fuel cells on its aircraft.

The technology has been designed with post graduate students at Cranfield University and uses a hydrogen fuel cell stowed in the aircraft’s hold. This system allows energy to be captured as the aircraft brakes on landing and is used to charge the system’s lightweight batteries when the aircraft is on the ground – motor racing will recognise this technology which is much like the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) found in F1 cars.

The energy can then be used by the aircraft without the need to use its jet engines. This would be particularly beneficial during taxiing, which the airline says amounts to 4 per cent of total fuel consumption, or an average of 20 minutes a flight. This is the equivalent of around four million miles a year – or travelling to the moon and back eight times.

The airline, which has more than 200 aircraft, hopes to save up to 50,000 tons of fuel a year through the new technology and plans to trial the system in the upcoming months.

Airlines are currently benefiting from the sharp plunge in the oil price over the last 18 months. Ian Davies, head of engineering at the airline, said they could cut costs further with the new technology.

Ian Davies commented:

“At EasyJet, we are continuing to apply the use of new digital and engineering technologies across the airline.

“The hybrid plane concept we are announcing today is both a vision of the future and a challenge to our partners and suppliers to continue to push the boundaries towards reducing our carbon emissions.

“It’s also a great example of the benefits of our strategic relationship with Cranfield University.”

EasyJet and Cranfield University signed a three-year strategic partnership agreement last year to share innovation and knowledge.

As part of EasyJet’s 20th birthday activities, students at Cranfield University were asked to compete in four categories: cabin design, aircraft design, airport experience and in-flight experience.

Judges at EasyJet and Cranfield received a raft of pioneering advances from the aerospace students. Further innovative ideas included dynamic wings which change shape in flight, a super-efficient ‘shark skin’ coating to reduce surface drag and, in the cabin, ultra-lightweight carbon fibre seats incorporating wireless phone and tablet charging panels.

easyJet Hybrid plane - kinetic energy recovery