Aviation is undergoing a transformation. If earlier it was a question of propeller-driven or jet-propelled aircraft, now more and more often, we are talking about electric-powered aircraft. However, the weight and the energy density of the batteries are a limiting factor for the development of emission-free air taxis.
The Silicon Valley-based company HyPoint is confident that the future is not for lithium-ion batteries, but for hydrogen fuel cells. The latter has a lot of advantages – a higher energy density and a short refueling time. The startup has found a way to significantly improve the parameters of existing hydrogen elements.
The company says it has developed a new “turbo air-cooled” fuel cell design for electric VTOLs that can provide three times the power and four times the life of a conventional fuel cell without increasing the weight of the aircraft. This will allow the creation of high-speed, long-range electric VTOL aircraft.
Their system uses an air cooling system, which made it lighter and eliminated additional elements. In addition, hydrogen elements are placed inside an air duct, where the pressurized, humidified, and thermally stabilized air is circulated by the fans. Also, air with a high oxygen content is supplied to the system. The new technology developed by HyPoint allows the system to force three times more hydrogen through the fuel cell than a traditional design – tripling its power without adding cooling mass to the aircraft.
All this led to the fact that the energy density increased by three times, reaching a value of 2000 W/kg, while the best liquid-cooled fuel cells deliver between 150 and 800 W/kg. According to Hypoint’s own calculations, the system has an energy density of about 960 Wh/kg. The system also has other benefits; it accepts ‘dirty’ hydrogen with only 99% purity, which is a fraction of the 99.999% purified hydrogen cost needed for a traditional system. Besides, Hypoint’s system is capable of withstanding a temperature range from -50 to +50 °C.
HyPoint assembled a prototype installation, which worked in the laboratory for about 20,000 hours. The next step for the company is to validate the test results outside the lab. A prototype with a capacity of 15-20 kW may appear this year, and a commercial even more powerful installation will be presented in 2022.
The startup has already entered into agreements with several large companies from different countries working on the VTOL field.