It appears the era of hydrogen-powered planes is upon us.
H2FLY has completed the world’s first piloted flight of an electric aircraft powered by liquid hydrogen, according to a statement shared on Thursday. The German company’s HY4 demonstrator carried out four tests using only the futuristic emissions-free fuel, marking a significant step forward for sustainable air travel.
The twin-prop, which uses liquid hydrogen to power a fuel-cell propulsion system, took off from Maribor, Slovenia before completing four flights. The company says the jaunts proved that using cryogenically stored liquid hydrogen instead of a gaseous alternative can double the range of the HY4, taking it from 466 miles (750 km) to some 932 miles (1,500 km). How? Liquified hydrogen enables significantly lower tank weights and volume, meaning you can carry more onboard to increase range and improve payload.
“This achievement marks a watershed moment in the use of hydrogen to power aircraft. Together with our partners, we have demonstrated the viability of liquid hydrogen to support medium and long-range emissions-free flight,” H2FLY cofounder Josef Kallo said in a statement.
This actually isn’t the first time the HY4 has made aviation history. In April, the aircraft set a record for the highest zero-emission flight by soaring to 7,230 feet. It is no slouch in the skies, either, with a maximum speed of 125 mph and a cruising speed of 90 mph. Those numbers could improve as the efficient twin-fuselage design is further refined and the wattage of the fuel-cell system is increased.
The four-seat HY4 isn’t the only aircraft H2FLY has on the horizon. The company has entered into a partnership with Deutsche Aircraft to develop a larger 40-seat aircraft that can cover 1,200 miles using the same liquid hydrogen.
“We are now looking ahead to scaling up our technology for regional aircraft and other applications, beginning the critical mission of decarbonizing commercial aviation,” Kallo added.
Bring on the new era.