Fuel Cell Flying

Thanks to Air and Space


When airlines shop for new aircraft, they follow some of the same principles car buyers do: Green is in; gas hogs are out. So airplane manufacturers are studying ways to reduce emissions and make engines less greedy. That’s why Cecilio Barberán was able to fly a powered glider last year with no avgas.

Instead, his HK 36 Super Dimona carried a 200-pound hydrogen fuel cell that ran an electric motor to turn its propeller. The fuel cell couldn’t quite put out the energy required for takeoff—45 kilowatts—and got help from a lithium ion battery to lift off the runway in Ocaña, Spain. At 3,300 feet Barberán disconnected the battery, and for the next 20 minutes the Super Dimona flew straight and level at about 60 mph on just the fuel cell. It was the first time a piloted airplane had flown powered by a fuel cell alone.

“Demonstrations like this lead the way toward using this technology in small manned and unmanned air vehicles,” says Nieves Lapeña…

If you’re interested in finding out more about alt.energy fueled flying, the CAFE Foundation will be having their Electric Aircraft Symposium at Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, California, Friday, April 24, 2009

About marypmadigan

Writer/photographer (profession), foreign policy wonk (hobby).
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2 Responses to Fuel Cell Flying

  1. Bruce Parker says:

    About time. The small aircraft engine industry has been hung up on piston ICEs for way too long.

  2. marypmadigan says:

    It’s a very good idea for powered gliders. Also, there aren’t as many airports as gas stations, so adding to or changing the fueling infrastructure wouldn’t be so difficult.

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