Lufthansa plans A320 hydrogen lab

Lufthansa Group is to repurpose an Airbus A320 into a hydrogen aviation laboratory for research into sustainable aviation.

The aircraft will be based at Hamburg Airport, where the research division of the airline, Lufthansa Technik, is based.

The modified aircraft will be home to a new Hydrogen Aviation Lab, designed to study the future of how maintenance, repair and overhaul, and ground-handling processes for future hydrogen-powered aircraft can be best undertaken.

The testing will initially take place on a relatively small scale. The newly installed fuel cell will power galley equipment as engineers seek to understand and develop the technology to expand it to a broader range of uses. 

Michael Eggenschwiler, CEO of Hamburg Airport, said of the collaboration:

“Climate-friendly flying with hydrogen technology is only possible if the infrastructure on the ground also fits perfectly. Close coordination is required here, and we as an airport are pleased to be able to contribute our know-how to this important project – from questions of storage and distribution to the refuelling process on the apron.”

“At the airport, we also rely on hydrogen as the technology of the future for our ground transport. This project offers us the chance to identify and make the best possible use of synergy effects between gaseous hydrogen, such as that used for refuelling our baggage tractors, and liquid hydrogen for aircraft refuelling.”

The facility is a joint project between Lufthansa Technik, the German Aerospace Center, ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research, and Hamburg Airport. The project is funded by the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, already a significant hydrogen hub and developing sustainable aviation centre. 

The partners will test the effects of liquid hydrogen (LH2) on maintenance and ground processes. LH2 is increasingly gaining attention in the research and development departments of large aircraft manufacturers as a sustainable fuel for future generations of commercial aircraft. 

The aircraft will be fully equipped with an LH2 infrastructure to serve as a functional field laboratory at Lufthansa Technik’s base in Hamburg.