A team of German engineers has unveiled the world’s first aircraft powered entirely by hydrogen fuel cells. This zero-emission aircraft runs only from the power generated by its hydrogen fuel cell bank.
“We have improved the performance capabilities and efficiency of the fuel cell to such an extent that a piloted aircraft is now able to take off using it,” said Johann-Dietrich Woerner from the German Aerospace Center (DLR). “This enables us to demonstrate the true potential of this technology, also and perhaps specifically for applications in the aerospace sector,” he said.
The aircraft, dubbed the Antares DLR-H2, has a range of 750 kilometres (465 miles) and can fly for about five hours, being developed by the DLR, Lange Aviation, BASF Fuel Cells and Denmark’s Serenergy. The system uses hydrogen as the only fuel source, which is converted into electricity by an electrochemical reaction with oxygen in the ambient air. The clean water is the only emission, since the process doesn’t require any combustion.
“Although the fuel cell may still be a long way from becoming the primary energy source for the propulsion of commercial aircraft, it does already constitute an interesting and important alternative to existing energy systems as a form of reliable on-board power supply,” the DLR said.