H2 Aviation
About H2 Aviation

In civil aviation, hydrogen-powered fuel cells are regarded as potential energy providers for aircraft as they have been in space travel for some time now. Thus, fuel cell modules can supply electricity to the aircraft electrical system as emergency generator sets or as an auxiliary power unit. More advanced concepts include starting of the main engine and the nose wheel drive for airfield movements by commercial aircraft.


Since fuel cells produce electricity more efficiently than aircraft engines, in ground operations aviation fuel can be saved and emissions reduced. Furthermore, multifunctional fuel cells can contribute to the supply of water, air humidification and the inerting of fuels (Renouard-Valleta et al. 2012).


The ideas and concepts for hydrogen in aviation extend to the support and/or complete drive of the flight operation. Individual jet engines have occasionally been tested with hydrogen in the past. More recently, electric aviation has been boosted by a number of small demonstration aircraft – the size of unmanned drones, motor gliders or small sports aircraft with a mass of up to 1.5 t (DLR 2015). These miniature and small propeller aircraft were fitted with PEM fuel cells and lithium batteries for the drive. The custom-built electric planes were able to demonstrate the basic feasibility of hydrogen-powered fuel cells in flight operations over short distances.


The use of fuel cell technology as the sole or main drive and fuel for full-sized commercial aircraft in national and international air services is not yet in sight, however.


Market maturity


Demonstration projects for on-board power supply. The first miniature/small aircraft have demonstrated the feasibility of electric aviation. Use in larger commercial aircraft not yet in sight.




High reliability in flight operations; compact, weight-saving storage.




Efficient energy converter and clean fuel; multifunctional.




Large storage volume, significantly more expensive than fossil fuels.


Jet engines with kerosene type aviation fuel (Jet A1) or paraffinic fuels (such as GTL); piston engines with gasoline type aviation fuel (Avgas).

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