HyPoint, a US company developing zero carbon-emission turbo air-cooled hydrogen fuel cell systems for aviation, has agreed with Piasecki Aircraft Corporation, a Philadelphia-based pioneer of rotorcraft and unmanned aircraft systems and technologies, to develop and certificate a hydrogen fuel cell system for electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL).
The initial $6.5 million agreement will culminate in the development of five 650kW 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.
HyPoint's approach utilises compressed air for both cooling and oxygen supply to deliver a hydrogen fuel cell system that radically outperforms existing battery and hydrogen fuel cell alternatives. Testing has shown that HyPoint's fuel cell system should be able to achieve up to 2,000 watts per kilogramme of specific power, more than triple the power-to-weight ratio of traditional (liquid-cooled) hydrogen fuel cells systems. It should also boast up to 1,500 watt-hours per kilogramme of energy density, enabling longer-distance journeys.
"We are laser-focused on the development and qualification of a 650kW system for our PA-890 eVTOL compound helicopter. Success will pave the way for collaboration with other eVTOL OEMs with different platform sizes to ensure broad application of this technology," says John Piasecki, president and CEO of Piasecki.
The global eVTOL market size is forecast to grow from an estimated $74 million in 2025 to $860 million by 2030, according to new market research. HyPoint says that in the first few months of 2021 alone, $5 billion of investments were announced in the sector to eVTOL developers 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.
The PA-890 eVTOL aircraft is an electric-powered slowed-rotor winged compound helicopter intended for use in missions including emergency medical services, delivery of high-value on-demand logistics and on-demand mobility personnel air transport.
The partnership's objective is to deliver a customisable, FAA-certified, zero carbon-emission hydrogen fuel cell system to the global eVTOL marketplace. The system should 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.
"The much-anticipated arrival of eVTOLs and similar aircraft has been severely hindered by the technical limitations of existing power systems," says Dr. Alex Ivanenko, founder and CEO of HyPoint. "This new strategic partnership will dramatically accelerate delivery timelines by equipping eVTOL manufacturers with next-generation hydrogen fuel cell systems that meet their unique needs. Together, HyPoint and Piasecki will work to grow the emerging eVTOL market by delivering a certified multiplatform solution for eVTOL makers."