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GM technology could help commercial jets shed 2 tons of weight at takeoff

Jamie L. LaReau, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Business News

General Motors is taking its hydrogen fuel cell technology to the sky.

GM and Liebherr-Aerospace, an on-board aircraft system supplier, have partnered to develop ways to use hydrogen fuel cell power generation on an aircraft.

Yes, that means one day hydrogen fuel cells could propel a commercial jet.

But before that happens, the technology could do a lot more to save on jet fuel, emissions and other inefficiencies that currently exist on airplanes, said GM Executive Director of Global Hydrotec Charlie Freese.

"The fuel cell can bring in the air you're flying through, then we take hydrogen, which is stored on board, and combine it to make power and electricity; we can even make heat," Freese told the Free Press.

It can also make water, leading to a huge fuel and emissions savings.

 

"A fuel cell is clean and the water product can be used to humidify the airplane or we can capture it and use it to flush toilets and sinks," Freese said. "The average aircraft takes off with two tons of water just to flush the toilet. We can now make water in flight."

GM and Liebherr's lab demonstration of the uses for hydrogen fuel cells will be based on GM's Hydrotec fuel cell technology and built and tested at Liebherr-Aerospace in Toulouse, France. The work that's done through this partnership will prepare the technology to eventually be tested on aircraft.

Freese said aircraft use is the ultimate test for the power and versatility of hydrogen fuel cells.

On Tuesday, GM said it will engineer and supply its Ultium battery technology and its Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cell system to power locomotives in a partnership with Wabtec Corporation. Wabtec provides equipment and other services to the freight and rail industry.

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