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article imageThe HY4 — a plane that runs on fuel cells and emits only water

By Karen Graham     Oct 26, 2016 in Technology
Stuttgart - The vision of sustainable air travel took a great leap forward recently when German researchers took to the air in a four-seater airplane that runs on hydrogen fuel cells while emitting only water vapor.
The 10-minute maiden flight of the HY4 took place at Stuttgart Airport in southwestern Germany on Thursday, September 29 with two pilots and two test dummies as passengers.
The twin-cabin plane was developed by aircraft maker Pipistrel in collaboration with fuel cell specialists Hydrogenics, the University of Ulm and the German Aerospace Center (DLR)'s Institute of Engineering and Thermodynamics. The electrically powered, emission-free aircraft is set to make future air transportation more sustainable and flexible.
The plane is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell system that generates electricity in flight, reports Phys.Org, giving the HY4 a cruising speed of 165 kilometers per hour (102.5 mph) and a range of up to 1,500 kilometers (932 miles). The plane also uses a battery for extra propulsion on take-off and landing.
"This is the first time that somebody has built an airplane that can carry more than one person and which is driven by hydrogen," says Andre Thess, director of the Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics at DLR, who sees HY4 as a major leap toward decarbonizing air travel.
Engineers foresee small and medium-sized airplanes powered by hydrogen fuel cells as changing regional air travel in the near future. The ideal use would be in the air-taxi industry as a flexible and rapid alternative to existing means of transport.
The HY4 hydrogen fuel cell four passenger aircraft on the runway at Stuttgart Airport.
The HY4 hydrogen fuel cell four passenger aircraft on the runway at Stuttgart Airport.
And being that the airplane is essentially emission-free is the icing on the cake, so to speak. says Josef Kallo, responsible for the HY4 project at DLR. "With the HY4, we now have an optimal platform to continue developing the use of fuel cells on aircraft," he adds.
Besides being emission-free, the aircraft is relatively quiet, compared to conventional planes, making them ideal for flying in controlled airspace in residential areas. Kallo, a pilot himself says he can easily envision a 40-seater aircraft flying a distance of a thousand kilometers (621 miles) in the very near future.
More about HY4, Fuel cells, emission free, Pipistrel, Hydrogen
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