LEIDEN, NETHERLANDS — Airbus recently announced a breakthrough concept to sidestep a lot of the challenges associated with hydrogen-powered flight.
The company's new idea is to place fully independent hydrogen fuel systems into pods that can easily be clicked on and off the wings of a turboprop airplane.
These pods would contain their own fuel and engine systems, allowing Airbus to remove all fuel tanks from the plane's fuselage, thereby adding a lot more space for cargo and passenger seats.
The pods would also add a safety element, as it would move the flammable hydrogen fuel from the fuselage to the wing, where a pod can easily be jettisoned in the unlikely event of a fire.
The plan is to attach three pods on each wing.
Each pod would contain a liquid hydrogen tank — with its own cooling system — a fuel cell, power electronics, and electric motors that will spin an eight-bladed lightweight propeller.
On the ground, each pod can simply be replaced with a fueled and serviced pod, which removes the need to refuel the plane with the complex systems needed to keep the hydrogen at very cold temperatures.