# How to incorporate a Hydrogen fuel cell into an electric aircraft for Homebuilders?

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#### dog

##### Well-Known Member
Piper Malibu with a hydrogen fuel cell.

#### Voidhawk9

##### Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
They recently wrecked it, appears to be a powerplant failure.

#### Vigilant1

##### Well-Known Member
They recently wrecked it, appears to be a powerplant failure.
It apparently wouldn't take much. The 8 minute test flight they were crowing about was at an altitude of 1000 feet and a speed of 100 kts. (A clean Piper Malibu stalls at 69 kts).
They paid $890,000 for the 600 kw fuel cell they had on order for the testbed. It is amazing that this stuff gets funded. Last edited: #### WonderousMountain ##### Well-Known Member They shouldn't give up now. The most expensive part is on the docks. #### dog ##### Well-Known Member Funny,the article says they placed the order for the new fuel cell, three weeks ago, and expect delivery in the fall. Must be two fuel cell powered Malibus. Last edited by a moderator: #### rv7charlie ##### Well-Known Member I do think it's wild, pie in the sky conversation for us to even be discussing doing fuel cell tech *at this point* for homebuilt a/c built/flown by mere mortals, but, the 1st car couldn't get out of its own way, the 1st airplane flight couldn't get out of ground effect, and the 1st computer I used had effectively no storage (couldn't save its programs to cassette tape reliably). I'm personally elated that various someones (other than me) have spent Sagan-level funds developing stuff that didn't work when they started. #### blane.c ##### Well-Known Member HBA Supporter It takes more energy to produce a gallon of hydrogen than you get out of the gallon of hydrogen. A whole bunch of warm green lipstick will not change that fact. . That is fact. It is however irrelevant. Another fact is that hydrogen can be (it is possible) carbon free and fossil fuels cannot. #### Vigilant1 ##### Well-Known Member Lifetime Supporter That is fact. It is however irrelevant. Another fact is that hydrogen can be (it is possible) carbon free and fossil fuels cannot. But hydrocarbon fuels can be used in aircraft and add zero carbon to the atmosphere. No expensive changes are required to the aircraft at all, and we get the same (very good) energy density/range and (low) equipment costs as we have right now. Net zero carbon jet fuels have already been produced and run in military transport aircraft. Works fine, but is more expensive than Jet A from oil. There's no technical reason we can't do the same thing for commercial airliners. Jet A is (far and away) the most important aviation fuel from an atmospheric carbon perspective. Analogous production processes can make zero net carbon fuel suitable for spark ignition aircraft engines (biobutanol, biogasoline, etc). At last look, it is more expensive than conventional gasoline, but cheaper than 100LL. 'Borrow" some carbon out of the air to make convenient, high energy liquid fuel, burn the fuel and the "borrowed" carbon goes back into the atmosphere. Net zero carbon flight. Building some facilities to make this fuel sounds a lot more practical and desirable (if we get to that point) than scrapping the entire GA fleet and requiring new acft use hydrogen fuel cell$. Nobody can seriously object to the logistics of a new liquid fuel and at the same time think it is more practical to build out a completely new hydrogen fuel production and distribution system.

Zero carbon flight does not necessarily mean electric flight.

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#### BBerson

##### Light Plane Philosopher
HBA Supporter
Yep, net zero can be a goal by any physical or chemical method and cheapest must be the goal to get anywhere worldwide.
Solar and wind are not net zero.

#### TMann

##### Well-Known Member
The technology (even for auto use) has a long ways to go.
If you watch the Hyundai add they state that one of the benefits of buying a Nexo is you get 7 days of free car rental a year for those trips outside the available fuel zone.
And let's not forget you get free fuel for 3 years (or \$13,000 maximum.)
Buy now and we'll throw in a free Shamwow!

#### Aesquire

##### Well-Known Member
The original question is about hydrogen fuel cells for an electric plane. Frankly I don't care the basis of that desire, be it a human cuisinart multi blade drone based toy, or the thrill of bragging rights & New Stuff, or an acolyte of Voltaire.

One way is buy a car and take it apart, then spend a LOT of time reverse engineering the computer system to make it feed a different motor. If weight means nothing, or not much, then your airship ( why not? Solves the storage problem ) can use the automotive motor. But I'd guess one sized properly & lighter is a better choice.

Alternatively, talk to commercial fuel cell stack makers, & get their take on a setup with at least 75% cruise power continuous output, plus a BIG allowance for avionics, strobes, and the computer/controller needed to run every thing. Or 110% climb power if not using batteries to take off, climb, and go around.

I'd be fascinated to know ... hybrid with batteries & fuel cell vs. Bigger enough fuel cell only? I don't know the numbers for mass, cost, or complexity. That's an iterative calculation. You have to consider the motor controller, will a common one others use work with the hybrid setup? Battery charger & hybrid controller? Bigger fuel tank? ( whispers "semitransparent airship using modern ultralight paraglider cloth" seductively )

And I don't know availability and cost of a fuel cell stack that runs on natural gas or methane or...
Nor do I know if there are solutions for hydrocarbon cells that have partly solved the contamination/poisoning problems hydrogen cells have, ( you might notice that some cells call for lab grade, not welding grade hydrogen purity ) or if a hydrocarbon cell stack needs a chemical plant to make hydrogen. Or how much that weighs, how much cooling is needed, and .... And....

Lots of good questions. Lots of vaporware.

The lovely power density of diesel or gasoline is undisputed. The future availability because of scarcity is a serious question. No matter if that scarcity is artificial because of war, religious cult dogma, or alien invasion ( "women? Salt water? No interest in humans, and salt water is cheaper to get from rings. We need hydrocarbon products from a lower gravity well than a gas giant!" ) Or natural because we burned or turned to plastic the easiest to drill for.

But if not artificial scarcity,, we've got enough for a few decades, at least. Good idea to have a replacement, the sooner the better. It's going to take long time between "My genius invented this fuel made from worm dung that solves all our problems" and "I like Tiger Caterpillar brand 170 octane for my 11 to 1 compression TSIO-340" .
( yes, I drove by a Worm Farm yesterday.

#### blane.c

##### Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
The original question is about hydrogen fuel cells for an electric plane. Frankly I don't care the basis of that desire, be it a human cuisinart multi blade drone based toy, or the thrill of bragging rights & New Stuff, or an acolyte of Voltaire.

One way is buy a car and take it apart, then spend a LOT of time reverse engineering the computer system to make it feed a different motor. If weight means nothing, or not much, then your airship ( why not? Solves the storage problem ) can use the automotive motor. But I'd guess one sized properly & lighter is a better choice.

Alternatively, talk to commercial fuel cell stack makers, & get their take on a setup with at least 75% cruise power continuous output, plus a BIG allowance for avionics, strobes, and the computer/controller needed to run every thing. Or 110% climb power if not using batteries to take off, climb, and go around.

I'd be fascinated to know ... hybrid with batteries & fuel cell vs. Bigger enough fuel cell only? I don't know the numbers for mass, cost, or complexity. That's an iterative calculation. You have to consider the motor controller, will a common one others use work with the hybrid setup? Battery charger & hybrid controller? Bigger fuel tank? ( whispers "semitransparent airship using modern ultralight paraglider cloth" seductively )

And I don't know availability and cost of a fuel cell stack that runs on natural gas or methane or...
Nor do I know if there are solutions for hydrocarbon cells that have partly solved the contamination/poisoning problems hydrogen cells have, ( you might notice that some cells call for lab grade, not welding grade hydrogen purity ) or if a hydrocarbon cell stack needs a chemical plant to make hydrogen. Or how much that weighs, how much cooling is needed, and .... And....

Lots of good questions. Lots of vaporware.

The lovely power density of diesel or gasoline is undisputed. The future availability because of scarcity is a serious question. No matter if that scarcity is artificial because of war, religious cult dogma, or alien invasion ( "women? Salt water? No interest in humans, and salt water is cheaper to get from rings. We need hydrocarbon products from a lower gravity well than a gas giant!" ) Or natural because we burned or turned to plastic the easiest to drill for.

But if not artificial scarcity,, we've got enough for a few decades, at least. Good idea to have a replacement, the sooner the better. It's going to take
long time between "My genius invented this fuel made from worm dung that solves all our problems" and "I like Tiger Caterpillar brand 170 octane for my 11 to 1 compression TSIO-340" .
( yes, I drove by a Worm Farm yesterday.
Why use a different motor?

Why not take a NEXO drivetrain and use it with a PTO on the motor in-place of the transmission? While of course the feedback to the computer will be different and need modification it should be doable? 161hp.

#### Martin R.

##### Active Member
Hydogen fuel cells for aircraft use in a homebuilt are going to have to wait for a general improvement.

#### Martin W

##### Active Member
Hydrogen is not new technology .... actually very old.
Neither are hydrogen fuel cells .... been around for years .... took a leap forward when NASA used it to power space capsules etc.

Geoffrey Ballard (to his credit) took all that fuel cell knowlege and figured out how to "stack" the cells in order to power things like large busses as I mentioned earlier. It worked fine ... only water came out the tailpipe ... very clean.

Trouble is it is an extremely dirty industry to produce hydrogen .... especially if by electrolysis using coal fired power plants .... nobody ever mentions that .

Also made from natural gas but as I said earlier it takes several units of natural gas to produce one unit of hydrogen .... much more practical to burn the natural gas .

Hydrogen is excellent in many applications such as spacecraft because it can produce power without any exhaust or pollution . NASA had billion dollar budgets and never concerned themselves about cost.

If we had a million dollar budget I am sure we could power a Cessna on hydrogen but it would be a novelty item that had no realistic market.

#### dog

##### Well-Known Member

My statement stands,unless you can point out
a general availibility of the parts nessesary for
hydrogen , valves,tube,tank.
The electric side is now swamped with choice.
And there are fuel cells amd related parts.
Though even the best efforts today are going to be hampered by the complexities of getting and filling the fuel on the average grass strip.
Big centers it is probably easy and hydrogen
deliverys can be scheduled on line.
The links you provided are great,but hint strongly that they were funded by university
and industry research departments and or just
Which is excellent in that there will be a lot of people on the perifery of that who now have direct ecperience with the more mundane requirememts of just fueling up.

#### blane.c

##### Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
I wonder how much speculation about the validity of their idea the Wright brothers endured? Or just about any innovation? Nothing about hydrogen/electric is practical at this time. Practicality has nothing to do with it. Curiosity has everything to do with it.

#### Martin W

##### Active Member
I wonder how much speculation about the validity of their idea the Wright brothers endured? Or just about any innovation? Nothing about hydrogen/electric is practical at this time. Practicality has nothing to do with it. Curiosity has everything to do with it.
I have the comprehensive story of the Wright Brothers
The book is called "The Bishops Boys" (their father was a bishop)

They were very practical .... methodical testing .... observing results .... built sophisticated wind tunnels to measure exact lift between various airfoils. They researched Lillienthals (sp) successes and failures

.

#### Saville

##### Well-Known Member
Wind and Solar PV have had well over 60 years during the most efficient and rapid era of technological advance in the history of tech and STILL haven't come up with anything remotely practical except for very limited uses.

In 60 years we went from the Wright Brother's first flight to 600+mph jets carrying people all over the world, Earth orbiting spacecraft, and preparations for landing on the Moon.

Wind and Solar PV are NOT new technologies, are not in their infancy, should be WELL past their teething problems. You've had decades - many of the most recent very well funded.

Maybe those funds would be better used investigating tech such as carbon capture (if you think Carbon in the atmosphere is a problem).

At what point will you be willing to say that Wind and/or Solar PV is not practical?

I will also add that there's nothing particularly difficult about windmill tech - been around for centuries. Far simpler tech than, say, pumping 560 pounds per second of cryogenic rocket fuel through a turbopump with no leaks.

#### andyvg52

##### Member
HBA Supporter
When all is said and done, green hydrogen and fuel cell technology will work in a homebuilt aircraft, 'nuff said..