Hydrogen-electric passenger planes can shape the emission free future of aviation. The MAHEPA consortium showed the feasibility of passenger transport in aviation by using a special improved fuel cell system, which provides electric power directly from on board stored hydrogen. With a refueling capability in minutes and a useful energy storage capability of 3 to 5 times better than batteries, even long-range flights are possible. The HY4 plane, owned by H2FLY GmbH, was refurbished during MAHEPA project with the sixth generation of fuel cell electric powertrain and achieved a test range of more than 150 miles (240 km) with a payload of 400 kg. During the flight test a fraction of the stored hydrogen was used, allowing even a significant reserve. The fuel cell system efficiency was higher than 44 % in cruise.
“The overall hydrogen propulsion system architecture developed by H2FLY engineers is a milestone in aviation”, says Dr. Josef Kallo, CEO of H2FLY GmbH and adds “This was only possible in cooperation with all partners from MAHEPA and further national funded programs.”
Based on extensive fuel cell scientific knowledge of the German Aerospace Center DLR in Stuttgart, a multidisciplinary solution was achieved with the integration of electric motor by the Institute for Energy Conversion and Storage (EWS) at Ulm University and the cooling system elaboration by Pipistrel Vertical Solutions. The partners showed full system functionality and integration. Next steps are the improvement of the electric power of the motor, the refurbishment of increased power fuel cell systems and an extensive test program on ground and in flight. Josef Kallo rounds up “In cooperation with the EU funded HEAVEN project we are confident that this breakthrough technology will allow us to think even at bigger planes, with up to 40 passengers and up to 2500 km in range.”