The innovative HY4 hydrogen-electric aircraft is the creation of Stuttgart-based developer H2FLY. The company’s specialty is hydrogen fuel cell technology for aircraft application, and they have just made the thrilling announcement that the HY4 has been able to fly at an amazing altitude of 7,230 feet.
It’s not all just about the altitude, either. H2FLY also says that their aircraft has completed a 77-mile journey from Stuttgart to Friedrichshafen, the first time it had ever been flown between two commercial airports. It’s actually the first time that any hydrogen-powered aircraft has flown between two commercial airports! Let’s take a closer look at this groundbreaking and record-breaking piece of engineering: the HY4.
Zero-emissions, low-noise flying
The most exciting thing about the achievements of the HY4 to date is that it demonstrates the increasing viability of emissions-free flying as a real commercial alternative to traditionally fueled aircraft, which are responsible for so much of our carbon emissions in the world right now.
The HY4 is a 4-seater aircraft, the first of its kind to be powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. Within that cell, hydrogen reacts together with oxygen, which results in electrical energy being generated, and a single harmless by-product: water. It’s the same fuel principle that powers hydrogen-cell cars like the Toyota Mirai.
What’s more, with hydrogen-electric power behind an aircraft, its noise level is vastly reduced. Just imagine a time where living by the airport no longer had to mean the constant nearby roaring of jet engines disturbing your outdoors time.
How the longer term will develop is more of a mystery, still, but the success of HY4 in its short flights already opens doors to the possibilities of realizing regional hydrogen-powered aviation services, not to mention short-distance services such as air taxis. Imagine being able to zip across a European capital in minutes in a small-scale hydrogen-powered flying unit…the concept of commuting could be entirely rethought!
Sustainable air travel would be a major step forward in our fight against carbon emissions and climate change. To date, commercial aircraft remain a significant thorn in the side of progress in emissions reductions around the world.
Hydrogen fuel cells are often held up as one of the best solutions to our current clean power woes. Unlike lithium-ion batteries, they don’t need long periods of recharging, and can actually be refueled in a very similar fashion as refilling a car with gasoline, or a modern aircraft with jet fuel. This makes the technology a better choice for commercial airports that operate on tight schedules.
What’s more, while the HY4 hydrogen-electric aircraft is only managing journeys between Stuttgart and Friedrichshafen covering less than 100 miles right now, the hydrogen-electric technology has potential for great range. Hydrogen cars have already broken the 400-mile range barrier, and H2FLY is already confident that the current performance of the HY4 will pave the way for a hydrogen-electric powered Dornier 328 aircraft with 40 seats to be developed in conjunction with Deutsche Aircraft by 2025.