DLR HY4 - Hydrogen fuelled prop. The future of clean energy flight?

I was reading about this in Flyer magazine over lunch.

I’m impressed, it’s obviously in the very early stages but Airbus are paying attention and it shows that there is a future for this kind of power source. Solar Impulse made a good impression with their solar powered plane although that seemed to be significantly limited by the sheer volume of cells required to power the aircraft.

Hydrogen does seem to be a more realistic and achievable goal though and the stats for the DLR look promising:

Max Speed: 200kph
Cruise: 155kph
Fuel consumption: 160km of flight uses 1.2kg of Hydrogen, about €10

Downsides: Hydrogen extraction isn’t completely carbon free because much it is a by-product of natural gas production or from liquid hydrocarbons. But while it’s not quite perfect it’s a far more palatable option than sticking with fossil fuels and gives us a tiny, teeny glimmer of hope that there’s life beyond oil.


The plane looks like a P-38. But an amazing aircraft


Wow! This would be something unique to see flying around. Does it have a smell like the jets or props do?


No idea, I suspect it doesn’t smell of anything much! Although I guess they could manufacture a perfume for it so it gives people that nostalgic scent of days gone by. L’eau du Kerosene by Airbus :-)


Maybe. This plane looks pretty cool.


We are on to safer methods of air travel, why would we go back to less safe methods? http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-hindenburg-disaster
This seems risky to me and could damage the reputation of air travel. Why fix something that isn’t broken?

Because burning Jet-A is something that will run out eventually. We can get H2 from the electrolysis of water, and the only exhaust of this reaction is water.

Now, is hydrogen going to work for large-scale aircraft? Probably not, the energy density is simply too low. But it is worth research dollars to look into if we can make it work.


There’s a world of difference between a dirigible with a skin that can be easily perforated and a modern hydrogen fuel cell.

Airbus seem keen and there’s talk of developing a short haul sized airliner that’ll run on that technology. The costs per mile if they can get it going are hugely attractive to a modern airline. And even if it is just short haul they can manage initially, the benefit to the environment would be significant. Or it could just be pie in the sky dreams but there’s precious little else to be optimistic about at the moment!

There is a way to go about it, but hydrogen is inherently volatile and expensive to obtain, so I won’t be holding my breath.

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