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First piloted flight of electric aircraft fuelled by liquid hydrogen

The first piloted flight of an electric aircraft fuelled by liquid hydrogen has been successfully completed, marking a significant step towards zero-emission long-haul aviation.

The aircraft, HY4, was developed by Stuttgart-based start-up H2FLY. It previously flew using gaseous hydrogen, but the switch to liquid hydrogen has reduced the weight and size of its fuel tanks, doubling its range from 750km to 1,500km.

Commercial airlines are also pushing the boundaries of hydrogen-powered flight. Airbus plans to develop the world's first hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft by 2035.

Hydrogen's role in the energy transition

Hydrogen has a big part to play in the energy transition, as it can be used to produce electricity, heat, and transport fuel without emitting greenhouse gases. However, several significant hurdles remain.

Storing and distributing hydrogen is challenging, due to its low density and high flammability. Additionally, to be zero-emission, hydrogen must be produced using renewable energy, but "green" hydrogen currently accounts for just 0.1% of global hydrogen production.

Experts say we need to produce 200 megatonnes of green hydrogen a year by 2030 to stay on course for net zero. This is more than twice as much as all the hydrogen produced today.

What is the future of hydrogen-powered aviation?

The World Economic Forum's Accelerating Clean Hydrogen Initiative has more than 200 members from 60 organizations, all working to accelerate and develop the global clean hydrogen industry.

The successful flight of the HY4 aircraft is a major milestone in the development of hydrogen-powered aviation. It demonstrates the potential of liquid hydrogen to power long-haul flights, and it sends a strong signal to commercial airlines and investors that hydrogen is a viable option for decarbonizing air travel.

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Liam Coleman

June 4, 2024

1:50

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