Hydrogen holds promise for zero-emissions aviation, by way of both fuel-cell electric motors or jet engines that burn H2 immediately. Now, Common Hydrogen has announced that it accomplished a 15-minute check flight in a 40-seat Sprint-8 commuter aircraft utilizing a fuel-cell hydrogen engine. The corporate known as the flight “historic” and mentioned it’s “dedicated to being North America’s first zero-emission airline.”
With a gas cell from Plug Energy and electrical motor constructed by magniX, the ability plant is the most important ever to take to the sky. Nevertheless, it was solely put in on the left facet of the plane, whereas a typical Pratt & Whitney turboprop engine was fitted to the proper wing for “security of flight,” the corporate mentioned. It equipped the engines with emissions-free “inexperienced” hydrogen (made by way of electrolysis from renewable energy sources), related by way of its personal modules that hold the extremely unstable fuel in liquid kind for as much as 100 hours.
The Sprint-8 was extremely modified to accommodate the engine, 30kg (66 kilos) of liquid hydrogen and two racks of electronics and sensors. Whereas the turbine engine was primarily used for takeoff, pilots have been in a position to cruise totally on hydrogen energy through the second circuit. The flight attained a top of three,500 ft.
Although it had some yaw as a result of imbalance in energy, “the airplane dealt with fantastically, and the noise and vibrations from the gas cell powertrain are considerably decrease than from the standard turbine engine,” mentioned chief pilot (and former US Air Pressure check pilot) Alex Kroll. The corporate acquired FAA approval for the flight just weeks ago.
The British/American agency ZeroAvia flew with the same configuration on its twin-engine, 19-seat Dornier 228 aircraft earlier this year. Airbus not too long ago announced that it is constructing a gas cell that might energy a 100-seat plane round 1,150 miles, and Rolls-Royce not too long ago completed assessments of a jet engine transformed to run immediately on hydrogen gas.
Potential issues nonetheless abound, although. Hydrogen has a few quarter the vitality density of standard jet A gas, so it is solely good for brief hops. And as I’ve detailed in an explainer, there’s little or no hydrogen gas infrastructure, it is difficult to work with and extremely explosive. Nonetheless, Common Hydrogen is assured it could possibly beat the chances. “Our enterprise mannequin resolves the chicken-and-egg drawback between hydrogen airplanes and hydrogen infrastructure by growing each in parallel and with a uniquely low-cost strategy,” mentioned CEO and co-founder Paul Eremenko.
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