The airline is committed to reducing its passengers’ carbon footprint and has set new targets for 2020 which will see a reduction of 7% over the next five years compared to its current emissions level of 81.05 grams CO2 per passenger kilometre.
This follows a decrease of 28% over the last 15 years.
For the hybrid plane concept the airline has taken inspiration from students at Cranfield University, who were asked to develop ideas for what air travel might look like in 20 years’ time, as part of a competition to celebrate easyJet’s 20th birthday in November last year.
easyJet will now work with its industry partners and suppliers to apply the cutting edge technology much sooner with a trial set to take place later this year.
The hybrid plane concept utilises a hydrogen fuel cell stowed in the aircraft’s hold. The 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.
The concept is similar to the Kinetic Energy Recovery System found in Formula 1 cars.
The energy can then be used by the aircraft – for example when taxiing – without needing to use their jet engines. Due to the high frequency and short sector lengths of easyJet’s operations, around 4% of the airline’s total fuel consumed annually is used when the airline’s aircraft are taxiing.
easyJet’s aircraft average 20 minutes of taxi time per flight, the equivalent of around four million miles a year.
Each aircraft would have motors in their main wheels and electronics and system controllers would give pilots total control of the aircraft during taxiing. The system would reduce significantly the need for tugs to manoeuvre aircraft in and out of stands, delivering more efficient turnaround times and increased on time performance.
The only waste product is fresh clean water which could be used to refill the aircraft’s water system throughout the flight.
easyJet head of engineering Ian Davies said: “The hybrid plane concept 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 is 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.
Dr Craig Lawson, lecturer at Cranfield University’s Centre for Aeronautics, added: “We are delighted to be working on this project with easyJet on what is a real-world example of how we can innovate together.”