After 12 years developing hydrogen propulsion systems for small unmanned aircraft (earlier post), HES Energy Systems is unveiled its plans for Element One, the first regional hydrogen-electric passenger aircraft.
Designed as a zero-emissions aircraft, Element One merges HES’ ultra-light hydrogen fuel cell technologies with a distributed electric aircraft propulsion design. With virtually no change to its current drone-scale systems, HES’ distributed system allows for modularity and increased safety through multiple system redundancies.
Element One is powered by HES’s Aeropak—a combination of its extremely lightweight fuel cells with high energy density hydrogen energy storage, allowing flight duration extensions by several orders of magnitude compared to lithium batteries.
The swappable hydrogen propulsion system scales from single systems for drones to multiple systems in parallel for manned electric flight.
Element One is designed to fly 4 passengers for 500 km to 5000 km (311 miles to 3100 miles ) depending on whether hydrogen is stored in gaseous or liquid form. This performance is several orders of magnitude better than any battery-electric aircraft attempt so far, opening new aerial routes between smaller towns and rural areas using an existing and dense network of small-scale airports and aerodromes.
Originally from Singapore, HES has been working with a number of fast-moving start-ups and SMEs in France over the past year and exploring various locations to execute its Element One vision, including Aerospace Valley, the global aviation R&D hub located in Toulouse. Parent company H3 Dynamics has been a symbol of intensifying technological cooperation between the two countries as part of the 2018 Year of Innovation.
It’s now possible to break past the endurance limits of battery-electric flight using HES’ ultra-light hydrogen energy storage in a distributed propulsion arrangement. Element One’s design paves the way for renewable hydrogen as a long-range fuel for electric aviation.—Taras Wankewycz, founder of HES
Refueling Element One will take no more than 10 minutes using an automated nacelle swap system that applies AGVs (automated guided vehicles) and automated warehouse operations such as those used by Amazon and Alibaba.
Last week, HES announced its plans to begin associating on-site hydrogen generation with fuel cell powered unmanned aircraft across a network of hydrogen-ready airports, in preparation for larger-scale electric aircraft such as Element One. HES is now in discussion with industrial-scale hydrogen producers to explore energy-efficient refueling systems using renewable solar or wind energy produced locally.
In an effort to explore new business models that help position Element One into new travel segments, HES has aligned its zero-carbon aviation roadmap with Wingly, a French startup that offers flight sharing services for decentralized and regional air travel.
We analyzed the millions of destination searches made by the community of 200,000 pilots and passengers on our platform and confirm there is a tremendous need for inter-regional transport between secondary cities. By combining autonomous emission free aircraft such as Element One, digital community-based platforms like Wingly and the existing high density network of airfields, we can change the paradigm. France alone offers a network of more than 450 airfields but only 10% of these are connected by regular airlines. We will simply connect the remaining 90%.—Emeric de Waziers, CEO of Wingly
Targeting a first flying prototype before 2025, HES is in the process of building a technical and commercial consortium involving both the aviation and hydrogen eco-systems.
HES’ parent company H3 Dynamics Holdings is backed by Japan’s SPARX representing Toyota Mirai Creation Fund, ACA Partners, and Capital Management Group.