HyPoint, Piasecki Aircraft partner to deliver next-generation hydrogen fuel cell systems for eVTOLs
26 August 2021
HyPoint, a company developing turbo air-cooled hydrogen-fuel-cell systems for aviation and urban air mobility, entered into a multi-phase collaborative development agreement with Piasecki Aircraft Corporation (PiAC), a pioneer in advanced rotorcraft and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) platforms and technologies, for the development and certification of a hydrogen fuel cell system for electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicle applications.
The initial $6.5-million agreement will culminate in the development of five 650 kW hydrogen fuel cell systems for use in Piasecki’s eVTOL PA-890 Compound Helicopter, which is expected to be the world’s first manned hydrogen-powered helicopter.
The partnership’s objective is to deliver a customizable, FAA-certified, hydrogen-fuel-cell system to the global eVTOL marketplace. The system will offer eVTOL makers four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries; twice the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel cell systems; and up to a 50% reduction in direct operating costs relative to turbine-powered rotorcraft.
Piasecki will gain exclusive license to the technology created as part of the partnership; HyPoint will maintain ownership of its underlying hydrogen fuel cell technology.
Piasecki and HyPoint intend to make the new system available to eVTOL makers by customizing it for use in their vehicles. Alternatively, eVTOL makers may choose to partner with HyPoint and Piasecki to develop a new system based on their specific needs.
HyPoint’s approach—its core innovation—is a new turbo air-cooling architecture. By utilizing compressed air for both cooling and oxygen supply, HyPoint reduces overall weight compared with traditional liquid cooling.
HyPoint is also using a next-generation high temperature membrane (HTPEM) instead of a low temperature membrane (LTPEM), which increases the efficiency of a cooling system by at least 300%.
Testing has shown that HyPoint’s fuel cell system will be able to achieve up to 2 kW kg-1 of specific power—more than triple the power-to-weight ratio of traditional (liquid-cooled) hydrogen fuel cells systems. It will also feature up to 1,500 Wh kg-1 of energy density, enabling longer-distance journeys.
In December 2020, HyPoint was named a winner of NASA’s iTech Initiative, in which breakthrough technologies were ranked based on criteria that included technical viability, benefits to humanity, and commercialization potential. HyPoint‘s aviation applications—including eVTOL, UAS, personal air vehicles, and electric aircraft—were considered to be especially innovative.
The global eVTOL market size is forecasted to grow from an estimated $74 million in 2025 to $860 million by 2030, according to new market research. In the first few months of 2021 alone, $5 billion of investments were announced in the sector to Archer Aviation, Eve, Joby Aviation, Lilium, and Vertical Aerospace.
In January 2020, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it was engaged with manufacturers of more than 15 eVTOL aircraft. EHang, Volocopter, Joby Aviation, and Lilium are among those who have signaled their intent to launch commercial passenger operations within the next three to five years. Other players include major aircraft companies such as Airbus and Boeing.
The global hydrogen aircraft market is anticipated to grow from an estimated $27 billion in 2030 to $174 billion by 2040, according to Allied Market Research.
Piasecki is currently working with the FAA to outline certification criteria, as well as with the United States Air Force, by way of its AFWERX STTR/SBIR program, which is co-investing in the development of advanced hydrogen-powered aeronautical technology.
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.
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.—John Piasecki, President and CEO of Piasecki
HyPoint’s flagship turbo air-cooled hydrogen high-temperature proton-exchange membrane (HTPEM) fuel cell system is the result of patented innovations including lightweight bipolar plates, a highly conductive corrosion-resistant coating, and an industry-first air cooling and oxygen supply system. Together these technologies enable a lightweight, climate-independent, extended-lifespan fuel system and increase operational time and utilization rate while decreasing total cost of ownership by as much as 50% relative to turbine-powered rotorcraft.
Although early stage this is very hopeful.
Here are the links to the site and to their white paper:
Critically they don't need batteries to supplement the power for take off and landing.
I did a check to sort out the performance envelope of this system comparatively:
Engine Type Power (W) / Mass (kg) Specific Power (W/kg)
Automobile engine 149140 / 168 888
Indycar Engine 596560 / 125 4772
Jet Engine 39447523 / 1270.059 31061
Space Shuttle Main Engine
Fuel Turbopump 53690391 / 352 152530
So still massively limited compared to the power output of a jet engine, but OTOH twice that of a road car.
There is a long way between prototypes and a production line, but cracking stuff from what seems to be a well qualified and experienced team!
Posted by: Davemart | 26 August 2021 at 03:34 AM
We previously discussed HTPEM fuel cells here:
Some interesting points made and links
Posted by: Davemart | 26 August 2021 at 04:00 AM
And here is an article on precious metal free anion exchange membrane cells, operating at 110C:
They got good durability right off the bat.
Posted by: Davemart | 26 August 2021 at 04:10 AM
Based on several of my previous posts, I am a big fan of the Piasecki PA-890 eVTOL Compound Helicopter. Piasecki has a long history in VTOL, they originally pioneered the tandem rotor helicopter which are a critical element of the US Army helicopter fleet (BTW actually worked at Boeing Vertol that started out as Piasecki Helicopter).
Hope this works since this could be an important step toward eVTOL.
Posted by: Account Deleted | 26 August 2021 at 09:07 AM
Sounds great, the credibility of everyone associated this is high.
What do you think of Advent compared to Hypoint?
Posted by: Davemart | 26 August 2021 at 09:49 AM
Advent and Hypoint are key players in HTPEM. Interesting connection: Dr. Brian Benicewicz, Head of Science at Hypoint worked with Advent when he was a professor at the University of South Carolina on PBI membranes (https://www.hydrogen.energy.gov/pdfs/review16/fc128_decastro_2016_o.pdf).
Advent is promoting HTPEM with eMethanol which would work well with eVTOL. Hypoint focus is the turbo air-cooling architecture. Their roles could be complementary.
Posted by: Account Deleted | 26 August 2021 at 10:44 AM
Interesting stuff, gryf.
Presumably it is all fairly early stage or HTPEM would be being pushed by the big boys for long distance trucks?
Or perhaps the expense is so high that it can only be considered at least for some time for aircraft?
Posted by: Davemart | 26 August 2021 at 11:17 AM
HTPEM should not be more expensive than LTPEM. Fuel consideration may be the primary driver, plus Toyota, Hyundai, GM, etc have invested billions in LTPEM and compressed H2.
Check this: http://donar.messe.de/exhibitor/hannovermesse/2017/Y280404/high-temperature-fuel-cells-eng-189383.pdf.
Posted by: Account Deleted | 26 August 2021 at 11:45 AM
Yeah, the advantages are so pronounced that I really can't see why everyone is fooling around either with big battery BEVs or LTPEMS for cars and heavy transport.
With the cycle life for batteries they can get now, even a PHEV configuration with a methanol fuel cell RE would seem to cover everything, very cheap to roll out the infrastructure, and no problems in cold weather.
Or simply and HTPEM fuel cell for cars, as they are powerful enough not to need a traction battery to supplement the fuel cell.
Liquid hydrogen and fuel cells for heavy transport probably still makes sense due to extra space and weight for cargo.
Posted by: Davemart | 26 August 2021 at 12:35 PM
HTPM do not have high energy density yet
Posted by: SJC | 26 August 2021 at 01:06 PM
Those two have high power density, but they are not in production yet.
Posted by: Davemart | 26 August 2021 at 01:31 PM
up to 1,500 watt-hours per kilogram
Need to see independent verification
Posted by: SJC | 26 August 2021 at 08:48 PM
Big claims for a small company
Posted by: SJC | 26 August 2021 at 09:34 PM
They are claiming 2000W/kg for their HTPEM for the stack system.
See page 12 here:
I don't have a problem with their claims, which seem reasonable for the suggested system, with the massive caveat of 'if it works' and that is in all sorts of ways, right up to economic mass production.
Their small employee count also seems fine for a R & D company only, working with collaborators - the resumeee's of the employees seem good.
Posted by: Davemart | 27 August 2021 at 12:41 AM
Hypoint are providing the powerplant for ZeroAvia's trials, which are in the air using their LTPEM fuel cells, specs shown as 'Hyflier' on page 12 of the link given in my last post.
Among the investors are British Airways, who have plenty of engineers to check out that they are not investing in something daft or improbable:
Posted by: Davemart | 27 August 2021 at 01:53 AM
Piasecki is a real company with engineering experience but not very large. Less than 100 employees? Hypoint claims to have 35 employees. Maybe they can make something works for $6.5 million. I do know that there is a lot of hype out there and a lot of money to be lost. The other day, I saw that Joby which is another eVTOL hopeful was valued in some SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Company) at over $1 billion. This is probably a thousand times what is worth without a flying prototype.
Remember Nikola Trucks. They are or were going to build fuel cell powered trucks and raised a lot of money on the basis of a gravity powered (rolled down a ramp) prototype. About 4 years ago, my company was moving into a different portion of the same building in Salt Lake City that Nikola was moving out of as they were given some sweetheart deal to move to Arizona. I was permitted to take a self guided tour of their prototype. It looked more real than it was but I remember wondering why they were valued some much more than we were. My company started about 10 years ago to build some high tech ag machines (about 1/2 tractor and half electric robot). We started with 4 engineers and 2 part time helpers and well less than $500,000 of friends and family money some of which was mine. When we moved into the building we had over 100 employees and were making at least one $250,000 a week. Now the company is over 220 employees and shipping about 10 machines a month. I no longer work there as I mostly retired 2 years ago but I still a part owner based on financial contributions and "sweat equity". Meanwhile, Nikola founder Trevor Milton was charged with securities fraud. The charges allege that Milton made a series of materially false claims which portrayed the electric vehicle company Nikola as far closer to releasing a functional product than it actually was, and raising more than $500 million of investment in the process.
Beware the hype!
Posted by: sd | 27 August 2021 at 07:28 AM
They have a 400w proto trying to raise money
Posted by: SJC | 27 August 2021 at 07:56 AM
Any early stage technology is risky and speculative, but some judgements can be made by looking at their claims, backing and the expertise of those on the board.
A major investor in Joby is Toyota, who are no engineering mugs.
For Zero Avia, we have British Airways, ditto.
Whose 400 w prototype of what are you talking about?
Posted by: Davemart | 27 August 2021 at 08:35 AM
Posted by: SJC | 27 August 2021 at 09:40 AM
Hypoint as a 400 W prototype that is all
Posted by: SJC | 27 August 2021 at 09:47 AM
So what do you reckon is powering the Zero Avia prototypes flying around now?
The short stack you refer to is on page 7 here:
And is clearly the HTPEM
I thought that it was the LTPEM powering the Piper prototype, but I am getting lost on what they are using, but it is definitely not a 400W stack.
Posted by: Davemart | 27 August 2021 at 10:07 AM
'ZeroAvia’s demonstration flight used a 250 kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell powertrain...
a Swedish company called PowerCell issued a press release stating that one PowerCell
MS-100 fuel cell was “an integral part of the powertrain...
The MS-100 generates a maximum power of just 100kW, leaving 150kW unaccounted for. This means the majority of the power needed for take-off could only have come from the Piper’s batteries."
Posted by: SJC | 27 August 2021 at 11:34 AM
Zero Avia sound as dodgy as Nikola.
No wonder the UK Government has bought in, they fancy having another DeLorean, so perhaps we will get a good film francise from it at least.
Posted by: Davemart | 27 August 2021 at 12:43 PM
I wish Hypoint well they should not over promise
This happens with a small young company trying to raise money
Posted by: SJC | 27 August 2021 at 12:53 PM
I have not seen anything yet to show that Hypoint is overpromising, they seem pretty upfront on where they are at, for instance they specifically say that their LTPEM is suitable for ground transport, not air, in the pdf I linked and don't say they are near production of the HT version.
They also give a pretty high price for the LT version, and it is clear that they are some way off of producing the HT.
It seems it is Zero Avia who are deliberately over-stating and exaggerating.
Posted by: Davemart | 27 August 2021 at 01:42 PM