Boeing tests small hydrogen fuel cell airplane

Posted By on April 4, 2008

There is an interesting article in MSNBC’s online Environment section where Boeing’s experimental aircraft researchers have flown a manned hydrogen fuel cell powered airplane. According to the article, Boeing Chief Technology Officer John Tracy told reporters that the fuel cell breakthrough is “full of promises for a greener future. Boeing recognizes that pollution represents a serious environmental challenge.”

Boeing Fuel Cell airplane
Boeing’s experimental aircraft powered by hydrogen fuel cells
at airfield in Ocana, Spain.

The single engine land experimental plane seats two and uses an electric motor which drives a propeller. During climb-out the airplane uses lithium batteries which holds reserve of power generated by the hydrogen fuel cells, but after reaching cruise altitude, the fuel cells generate enough electricity on their own to maintain straight and level flight at 60 miles per hour.

The successful tests consisted of three flights in February and March at an airfield in Ocana, Spain and were seen as successful in every way. Boeing indicated that although the cost and infrastructure for hydrogen is high, that “fuel cells are two to three times more efficient in converting energy than today’s internal combustion engines.” They don’t expect fuel cells to power large aircraft, but believe this type of power will be ideal for small manned and particularly unmanned aircraft. “Over the longer term,” Boeing indicated that “solid oxide fuel cells could be applied to secondary power-generating systems, such as auxiliary power units for large commercial airplanes.”

Comments

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  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.
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