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It's an HFCV (Hydrogen Fuel Cell "Vehicle")...but it's a plane

Discussion in 'Electric Vehicles' started by ecarfan, Oct 22, 2016.

  1. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

    Sep 21, 2013
    San Mateo, CA
    Although I think it is clear that hydrogen fuel cells don't make sense for passenger cars, perhaps a case can be made that they might make sense for some classes of airplanes. See The plane that runs on hydrogen and emits only water -

    Of course the plane described in that article is a 4 person modified sailplane (glider) but you have to start somewhere. It's an interesting idea. The goal is, quote: "The team aims to use fuel cells to power small and medium-sized passenger planes, which could change regional air travel and provide an alternative to carbon-emitting airplanes, buses and trains."

    The energy density of batteries is well below -- I would guess by orders of magnitude -- what is needed to effectively power small commercial planes useful distances. Using a fuel cell to make electricity onboard you don't need to devote much weight to batteries. Yes you still need to expend energy creating the hydrogen, building fueling stations, etc. But likely it is better, in many ways, than refining oil into av gas or jet fuel.
  2. Yggdrasill

    Yggdrasill Active Member

    Feb 29, 2012
    Kongsberg, Norway
    Hydrogen isn't significantly better than batteries when used in aeroplanes.

    - Jet A-1 can store approximately 4.3 kWh per liter and 5.4 kWh per kg (after ICE losses)
    - Hydrogen at 700 bar can store approximately 0.65 kWh per liter and 0.85 kWh per kg (after FC/drivetrain losses)
    - The best li-ion packs can store approximately 0.45 kWh per liter and 0.25 kWh per kg (after drivetrain losses)

    When batteries become twice as good, they will be better than hydrogen. Hydrogen is limited by it's physical properties - it's unlikely to improve much.
    • Informative x 1
  3. mrElbe

    mrElbe Active Member

    Aug 17, 2014
    Stouffville, ON Canada
    Hey, it worked well for the Hindenburg airship.
  4. Kandiru

    Kandiru Member

    Oct 20, 2014
    First it is a twin-fuselage powered glider, the very low power requirements make me suspect that it could fare similarly with solar panels.

    The high energy low light emitting hydrogen fire would certainly spare the occupants the agony of a lengthy recovery should it ever crash.
  5. Pollux

    Pollux Active Member

    Jul 16, 2013
    Merry land / District of Confusion
    So... 10X improvement in battery storage needed to make electric aircraft practical?

    I also wonder whether you need still more improvement, because aircraft become more efficient as they burn their fuel, but battery weight never goes away.

  6. Electroman

    Electroman Well-Known Member

    Aug 18, 2012
    That's a great point. Effectively your take off weight cannot be more than the landing weight. And that is a huge negative for batteries and fuel cells, more so for batteries.
  7. swaltner

    swaltner Active Member

    Oct 13, 2012
    Kansas, USA
    That setup is very similar to the one-off Pipistrel Taurus G4 that was designed to compete in and succeeded at wining an efficiency contest put on by NASA. The Taurus G4 was a mashup of a pair of Taurus Electro fuselages , one standard set of wings mounted outboard of the fuselages and then a custom center section and motor pod to tie the two fuselages together.

    Rereading the article, I guess they do mention this was done in partnership with Pipistrel, so they must have taken that same airframe and retrofitted it with the fuel cell for on-board electricity generation.

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