ENvironmentally Friendly Inter City Aircraft powered by Fuel Cells (ENFICA-FC).

The ENFICA-FC project led by Politecnico di Torino and comprising 11 partners has been selected for co-funding by the European Commission in the Aeronautics and Space priority of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).

The main objective of the ENFICA-FC project is to develop and validate the use of a fuel cell based power system for the propulsion of more/all electric aircrafts. The fuel cell system will be installed in a selected aircraft which will be flight and performance tested as a proof of functionality and future applicability for inter city aircrafts.

Through this project, the research and industrial Consortium partners will focus on developing and providing operational zero-pollution solutions to the immediate needs of aircraft services.

The project will bring together key industrial and academic players in the design and development and validation of intercity aircraft together with fuel cell expertise for propulsion systems and hydrogen storage. The overall budget is 4.5 M€, of which 2.9 M€ will be funded by the European Commission.

Hydrogen and fuel cell power technologies have now reached the point where they can exploited to initiate a new era of propulsion systems for light aircraft and small commuter aircraft. In addition, these technologies can also be developed for the future replacement of on-board electrical systems in larger ‘more-electric’ or ‘all-electric’ aircraft.

The primary advantages of deploying these technologies are low noise and low emissions – features which are particularly important for commuter airplanes that usually take-off and land from urban areas. The possibility to takeoff and land without contravening the noise abatement regulations set for small airfields, in urban areas and near population centres, will allow the use of these airfields during the late night hours when the noise abatement regulations are even more stringent.

No other Project funded by The European Commission promises such ambitious results which will be presented at both an on-ground public event and at an in-flight public event within the scheduled time.

Within the course of the 3 years ENFICA-FC project, which was launched on the 1st of October 2006, two key objectives will be realised:

1) A feasibility study will be carried out to provide a preliminary definition of new forms of aircraft power systems that can be provided by fuel cell technologies (Auxiliar Power Unit, Primary electrical generation supply, Emergency electrical power supply, Landing gear, De-icing system, etc); also Safety, certification & maintenance concepts shall be defined as well as a Life Cycle Cost evaluation.

In defining the Inter-City aircraft systems that can be powered by fuel cell technologies, the feasibility study will take into account the performance improvements of future generation fuel-cells and will thereby show the technical (and performance) advantages that could be obtained in contrast to existing conventional systems.

In addition, the feasibility of an all-electric propulsion inter-city aircraft (10-15 seat), completely powered by fuel cells, will be studied in order to assess the impact that a more silent and less polluting aircraft will have in being able to takeoff and land from congested urban areas using short airfields.

2) By the end of the project an electric-motor-driven two-seat airplane powered by fuel cells will be developed and validated by flight-test at a public event.

An existing and certified high efficiency two-seat aircraft design will be used. The fuel cell system and the electric motor will be integrated on board; the flight control system will also be converted into an electric system.

  • A fuel cell unit and a high efficiency brushless electric motors and power electronics apparatus for their control shall be designed, built and tested in laboratory prior to installation on board for flight;
  • Efficiency greater than 90% would be obtained by an optimised aerodynamic propeller design and the flight mechanics study of the new aircraft will be carried out to verify the new flight performance.
  • Flight testing of the aircraft capable of remaining aloft for one hour will be a major goal of the project to validate the overall high performance of an all electric aircraft system.