HyPoint, Piasecki team up to develop hydrogen fuel cell systems for eVTOLs

The California-based startup HyPoint has collaborated with the aircraft developer Piasecki Aircraft Corporation (PiAC) to develop hydrogen fuel cell systems for electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicle applications. The ultimate goal is to deliver a customizable, FAA-certified, zero carbon-emission hydrogen fuel cell system to the global eVTOL market.

Through the partnership, Piasecki will gain an exclusive license to the technology created as part of the partnership, while HyPoint will maintain ownership of its underlying hydrogen fuel cell technology.

HyPoint’s revolutionary approach uses compressed air for both cooling and oxygen supply to deliver a hydrogen fuel cell system that significantly outperforms existing battery and hydrogen fuel cell alternatives. According to the company, the new system will offer eVTOL makers four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries, double the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel cell systems, and that costs up to 50% less relative to the operative costs of turbine-powered rotorcraft.

HyPoint claims its “turbo air-cooled” fuel cell system will be able to achieve up to 2,000 watts per kilogram of specific power, which is more than triple the power-to-weight ratio of traditional (liquid-cooled) hydrogen fuel cells systems. It will also boast up to 1,500 watt-hours per kilogram of energy density, enabling longer-distance journeys.

The two companies have raised an initial $6.5 million to develop five full-scale 650 kW hydrogen fuel cell systems. The new system is to be built into Piasecki’s eVTOL PA-890 Compound Helicopter, which is expected to be the world’s first manned hydrogen-powered helicopter. The special five-person PA-890 will have a three-bladed main rotor. The helicopter’s variable incidence wing rotates up to 90 degrees to minimize download for efficient hovering, while a tail rotor tilts backward in forward flight to become a pusher prop.

We are laser-focused on the development and qualification of a 650kW system for our PA-890 eVTOL Compound Helicopter, which would be the world’s first manned hydrogen-powered helicopter. Success will pave the way for collaboration with other eVTOL OEMs with different platform sizes to ensure broad application of this technology,” said John Piasecki, President, and CEO of Piasecki.

Initial lab testing funded by Piasecki last winter demonstrated the technical viability of HyPoint’s hydrogen fuel cell system. While we are benchmarking HyPoint’s technology against alternatives and continue to rigorously test and validate findings, we are very optimistic. Our objective is to develop full-scale systems within two years to support on-aircraft certification testing in 2024 and fulfill existing customer orders for up to 325 units starting in 2025.

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