The Vertical Flight Society (VFS) is launching a new council focused on the use of hydrogen propulsion for eVTOL aircraft.
The eVTOL Hydrogen Council, to be chaired by Nexa Capital Partners’ Michael Dyment, will meet monthly to encourage discussion on non-proprietary information and best practices to promote hydrogen as an energy source for eVTOL aircraft. Working jointly with other interested agencies, standards organizations and associations, the council will promote the publishing of technical papers, networking and various forms of virtual and in-person collaboration.
“Hydrogen-powered eVTOL will guarantee that advanced air mobility has a bright future, and it will be essential for the aerospace industry to solve the considerable challenges of H2 technology, supply, logistics and safety,” Dyment told eVTOL.com.
An initial list of council members posted by Dyment to LinkedIn included Danielle McLean, CEO of Happy Takeoff, as the group’s deputy chair. Other organizations represented include hydrogen fuel cell developer HyPoint and Alakai, an eVTOL aircraft developer and NASA vehicle partner. The initial list of 14 members also includes multiple representatives of Piasecki Aircraft, including president and CEO John Piasecki — a company working on a compound helicopter eVTOL aircraft design that has received funding from the U.S. Air Force’s Agility Prime program.
“The eVTOL Hydrogen Council — an all-volunteer body of experts — has a vision that hydrogen will eventually and completely transform all manner of air vehicle propulsion, where practical hydrogen-fueled powertrain technology will become a standard and dominant energy source for manned and unmanned flight,” states a draft charter document for the new council, posted briefly to LinkedIn.
The draft charter document cites hydrogen as having the “greatest energy-density ratio of any non-nuclear fuel source on Earth,” speaking to its long-term potential for eVTOL propulsion, while noting the significant technological and price-point challenges involved in its production, distribution, storage and use in aviation.
“As the vertical flight technology thought leader, VFS is always looking at technologies on the verge of transitioning to fulfill their potential,” Mike Hirschberg, executive director of VFS and a member of the new council, told eVTOL.com. “Hydrogen has incredible potential. We are looking to collaborate with industry, academia and government agencies to accelerate the realization of hydrogen for eVTOL aircraft operations.”
Hirschberg said the new council was formalized in December, with Dyment selected as its chair, and will officially begin business in the next few weeks. He expects numerous other members of VFS and other professional societies to join in the coming year.
In addition to Alakai’s Skai, several developers of eVTOL aircraft including Urban Aeronautics’ CityHawk and AMSL Aero’s Vertiia have stated intentions to produce hydrogen versions of their aircraft on a longer timeframe. To date, however, eVTOL.com is not aware of any public footage of a passenger-capable or large cargo eVTOL aircraft taking flight.
Around the world, investment is ramping up in hydrogen production and powertrain technology, including within the aerospace sector. Last year Airbus, threatened by the coronavirus pandemic, received a $17 billion bailout package from the French government with green strings attached, pushing the planemaker to begin designing a carbon-neutral passenger jet 10 years earlier than planned. Airbus also abandoned its hybrid-electric E-Fan X project, a joint technology demonstrator program with Rolls-Royce, after determining that approach was “not giving us the disruptive levels of reduction that we need,” according to Glenn Llewellyn, Airbus vice president for zero emissions technology.
More recently, hydrogen-electric startup ZeroAvia raised $21 million from investors including Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, Shell and Breakthrough Energy Ventures — as well as an additional $16 million from the British government — to continue development of a 19-seat hydrogen-electric aircraft, aiming for a 350-mile flight in early 2023. ZeroAvia moved its development activities in 2019 from Hollister, California to Cranfield, England after receiving a $3.3 million government grant for development of its hydrogen-powered Piper Matrix.