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19 Oct 2022

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The First Aircraft to Fly on Carbon-Free Liquid Hydrogen

There is no doubt that liquid hydrogen is the future jet fuel for long-distance flights. It's three times more efficient than conventional jet fuel and can run aircraft much longer without emitting greenhouse gases while covering more distance than traditional jet fuel.

However, the longer range and zero carbon emissions are worth an extra tank. Although building an aircraft to carry those tanks has proven challenging, one German company is pushing forward.

As of April 2016, H2Fly flew on a four-seat aircraft called HY4, setting a record for the highest zero-emission flight, with a 7,230-foot speed. It was powered by a fuel cell powered by hydrogen gas.

H2Fly announced that it would be installing tanks that could handle liquid hydrogen. The switch from pressurized gas should at least double the plane's range, from 450 to 900 miles.

"Liquid hydrogen has huge advantages over the alternative pressurized hydrogen gas, not least because it becomes possible to carry a far greater quantity on board an aircraft, the result is significantly longer ranges."

" Dr. Josef Kallo, H2Fly's co-founder and CEO, told Robb Report.

Although H2Fly's current fuel-cell system was only introduced in 2012, the various components have been continuously updated over the last decade. "We're currently producing 120kW, but we're updating the stack, and with the new technology, we should get to a 300kW system."

During his comment, He didn’t provide performance projections, but it's safe to assume the new system will surpass the current version of the HY4, which maxes out at 125 mph and has a cruising speed of 90 mph.

Those numbers are made possible because of an efficient design that includes a twin fuselage, propellers away from one another, and electric motors powered by cells.

There is also a small battery bank, which provides an additional power boost during heavy usage.

"If we want to change energy use on a global scale, we have to go with the fuel that provides the most efficient way of creating power, and that is hydrogen," Kallo said. "No other process comes close."

The company has joined forces with Deutsche Aerospace to create a hydrogen-powered, 40-person aircraft with a range of 1,200 miles and seat configurations similar to the HY4. Not to be outdone, H2Fly is not the only company who's in the process of developing a liquid hydrogen-powered plane.

It was announced in 2020 that Airbus will enter commercial service with three ZEROe hydrogen-fueled concepts in 2035.

In addition, Cranfield Aerospace Solutions announced that its Project Fresson would switch from batteries to hydrogen gas in 2035. There will be a nine-passenger aircraft scheduled for a demo flight next month.

As early as 2027, ZeroAvia plans on entering commercial service with a fuel-cell aircraft that will take 20 passengers 350 nautical miles. It will undergo tests next year. FlyZero also revealed three hydrogen-powered concept aircraft in March.

It is anticipated that testing will commence on the liquid-hydrogen-powered HY4 early next year.

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