The world’s first regional hydrogen-electric passenger aircraft is under development by HES Energy Systems of Singapore. The zero-emission Element One features the company’s ultra-light hydrogen fuel cell technologies in a distributed electric aircraft propulsion design.

Artist’s rendering of the Element One. Source: HES Energy SystemsArtist’s rendering of the Element One. Source: HES Energy SystemsThe craft is powered by HES’s Aeropak, potentially extending flight duration by several orders of magnitude compared to lithium batteries. The swappable hydrogen propulsion system scales from single systems for drones to multiple systems in parallel for manned electric flight.

The four-passenger plane will have a range of 500 to 5,000 km depending on whether hydrogen is stored in gaseous or liquid form. This performance is several orders of magnitude better than any battery-electric aircraft designed to date and is expected to open new aerial routes between smaller towns and rural areas using an existing network of small-scale airports and aerodromes. Refueling Element One should require no more than 10 minutes. The aircraft is refueled using an automated nacelle swap system that applies automated guided vehicles and automated warehouse operations, such as those used by Amazon and Alibaba.

HES recently announced plans to begin developing on-site hydrogen generation with fuel cell-powered unmanned aircraft across a network of hydrogen-ready airports. The company has also aligned its zero-carbon aviation roadmap with Wingly, a French startup that offers flight sharing services for decentralized and regional air travel.

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