Can HY4 Deliver Zero-Emission Air Transport?

German engineers continue to develop and test the HY4, a four passenger hydrogen fuel cell aircraft.

HY4 is an organization made up of engineers, entrepreneurs and flight enthusiasts who want to move toward zero emission passenger flights. Based in Germany, the team hopes to take advantage of the sixty plug regional and international airports in the country to build a network of short distance flights. This ‘electric air taxi’ network will use emission-free aircraft that use sustainable electric propulsion systems. Hydrogen fuel cells will work together with batteries to power small four passenger aircraft with a maximum range of 1500 kilometers.

The current specifications for HY4 are 80 kilowatt motor outputs and a maximum speed of 200 kilometers per hour with a cruising speed of 145 kilometers per hour. Two hydrogen tanks sit behind the passenger zones and each hold 9 kilograms of Hydrogen and weigh 170 kilograms when full. Low temperature PEM fuel cells are in the middle section, and the 440 cells are clustered into four modules and generate 45 kilowatts of nominal power.

The HY4 body has a 23.36 meter wingspan and a length of 7.4 meters, weighing up to 1500 kilograms. Four passengers fit in the aircraft but one of them needs to pilot the ship. HY4 made its first official flight from Stuttgart Airport on September 29, 2016 with much fanfare and media coverage.

This is another interesting entry into the field of personal aircraft. HY4 seems to have the advantage of a large organization behind it, instead of one maker obsessed with a project and working to convince the rest of the world to fall in with him. This air taxi concept also keeps the idea of companies owning the vehicles, as opposed to every interested user purchasing their own fuel cell plane. I’m still assuming that in the coming decades we’ll see more and more people flying themselves where they need to go, creating new problems of air traffic logistics and aircraft infrastructure. It will be interesting to see what HY4 does with more tests and eventual mass implementation.