aircraft powered by hydrogen fuel

Hydrogen-powered aircraft proposes carbon-free future for aviation

Image credit: HES Energy Systems

A passenger aircraft powered by hydrogen fuel and offering “zero-emissions” flight is being developed by Singapore aviation company HES Energy Systems.

Dubbed Element One, the aircraft combines HES’ “ultra-light” hydrogen fuel cells with a distributed electric aircraft propulsion design.

The plane is designed to carry just four passengers at distances ranging from 500km to 5,000km, depending on whether the hydrogen fuel is stored in gaseous or liquid form.

Finding emission-free ways to fly is proving to be a headache for the aviation sector, as the performance of electric engines often falls short of the thrust and range needed to take to the skies.

HES said that the performance of Element One is “several orders of magnitude” better than any battery-electric aircraft and could enable new aerial routes between smaller towns and rural areas using an existing and dense network of small-scale airports and aerodromes.

It also said its distributed system allows for modularity and increased safety through multiple system redundancies.

Refuelling Element One should take less than 10 minutes using an automated “nacelle swap system”.

“It’s now possible to break past the endurance limits of battery-electric flight using HES’ ultra-light hydrogen energy storage in a distributed propulsion arrangement,” said HES founder Taras Wankewycz. “Element One’s design paves the way for renewable hydrogen as a long-range fuel for electric aviation.”

HES is now in discussion with industrial-scale hydrogen producers to explore energy-efficient refuelling systems using renewable solar or wind energy produced locally.

Targeting a first flying prototype before 2025, HES is in the process of building a technical and commercial consortium involving both the aviation and hydrogen eco-systems.

In June, a study recommended replacing 30 per cent of the UK’s domestic gas supply with hydrogen in order to reduce carbon emissions.

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