ZeroAvia achieves fuel savings of up to 90 percent by utilizing hydrogen fuel cells (HFC) that combine the advantages of both liquid and solid hydrogen. HFC fuel cells are by far the most efficient fuel alternative to traditional lithium-ion batteries, providing the best of both worlds — the best of a fuel cell and a battery system in one compact package (Techcrunch).
How the technology works
Fueled by natural gas, The ZeroAvia hydrogen fuel cell electric airframe is an Airbus Skytyper 100 aircraft. It has already made two test flights with results indicating that the aircraft is capable of flying the 500-mile trip, or about 900 km, between San Francisco and Los Angeles without refueling. The ZeroAvia aircraft can fly up to 4,000 miles on a single tank. The hydrogen used is hydrogen, which is 100 percent clean, renewable and emission-free.
Electric airplanes don’t work without energy storage, so fuel cells are out of the equation. The RAE Research Consortium’s paper in September 2016 (Hydrogen as a jet fuel) states that the feasibility of a fuel cell fuel cell aircraft has yet to be proven by ZeroAvia. Although the RAE calls hydrogen as a jet fuel “highly attractive” hydrogen is bulky, and making a fuel cell aircraft lightweight to operate, build, and maintain is a challenge.
The main problem is energy storage. Today’s electric and hybrid airplanes consume four to eight hours of energy storage for the complete day. The challenges for the electrification of aviation are the material costs, lifetime, efficiency, weight, and durability of the battery pack. ZeroAvia solves these problems, because it obviates the need for charging and the battery can be easily recycled.
ZeroAvia’s first product, the HY-100S, is an 100% electric vehicle that is fully integrated with hydrogen-electric powertrain for hydrogen-electric flight. The hydrogen-electric powertrain offers high operational availability, outstanding noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) characteristics, and a very low flight altitude. The aircraft from ZeroAvia is also much simpler to build and maintain than today’s electric aircraft. It can use existing, off-the-shelf technologies. The goal is to develop a 400+ mile range, long-range aircraft. This is not enough range for intercontinental flights, but the same range as a diesel engine, and it is much more affordable than air taxis.