The electrification of aviation
Electric flight – emission-free, with a new look and quieter
Electric flight combines several advantages; it is locally emission-free, quieter, and makes completely new mobility options possible.
First flight of four-passenger fuel cell aircraft
In September 2016, HY4, the first four-seater passenger aircraft powered solely by a fuel cell system, embarked on its first flight from Stuttgart airport.
The HY4 fuel cell propulsion system
The HY4 powertrain consists of a hydrogen storage unit, a low-temperature hydrogen fuel cell and a high-performance battery.
HY4: Electric flight powered by fuel cell
Developed by DLR, HY4 – the world’s first four-seat passenger aircraft with hydrogen fuel cell technology and electric drive system – was just one of the topics at this year’s E²Flight Symposium in Stuttgart.
DLR's four-seater fuel cell aircraft HY4
DLR's HY4 will be the world's first four-passenger aircraft powered solely by a hydrogen fuel cell battery system.
The HY4 makes cleaner, quieter, more energy-efficient and safer flight possible
To power the aircraft, DLR researchers rely on a hybrid system that combines a fuel cell with a battery.
Hydrogen fuel cell drive
The aircraft is powered by hydrogen, which is converted into electricity by the fuel cell. The HY4 has a motor output of 80 kilowatts.
After all, forecasts predict that the global aircraft fleet will double in size over the next 20 years. In order to ensure the future viability of the air transport system, it is therefore vital to significantly reduce the negative impacts. As such, research into alternative propulsion systems is set to play a key role in aviation.
Electric flight promises great potential
To this end, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is conducting research into hybrid-electric aircraft, which could constitute an important building block for future aviation. Electric flight opens up completely new possibilities for drastically reducing pollutant emissions from aircraft, as well as significantly reducing noise pollution. In addition, electric engines make completely new aircraft configurations possible, which should further reduce fuel consumption and thus emissions. Overall, electric aircraft have the potential to fundamentally change mobility, as quiet, clean means of transport pave the way for flying shuttle services directly from city centres to the nearest large airport.
DLR is researching the vision of electric flight
DLR is the only large-scale research institution in Europe that is in a position to study all aspects of electric flight and address the questions that are yet to be answered. To that end, DLR is conducting research into different propulsion technologies – from initial concepts and simulations all the way through to their integration into new aircraft configurations. At the same time, the researchers are investigating how this will impact the overall air transport system, looking at the expected effects for travellers, airlines and airports.
In response to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, one of the most important goals for future aviation is to be able to use electric propulsion systems for freight and passenger aircraft.
Dr. Andreas KlöcknerDeutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR)
Programme Strategy AeronauticsTelephone: +49 2203 601-2449
Annabel BrückmannDeutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR)
Programme Strategy AeronauticsTelephone: +49 2203-601-5080
Dr.-Ing. Florian WoltersCoordinator Electric PropulsionGerman Aerospace Center (DLR)
DLR Institute of Propulsion Technology, Fan and CompressorTelephone: +49 2203 601-3796
Rainer SchnellTeam Lead FanGerman Aerospace Center (DLR)
DLR Institute of Propulsion Technology, Fan and CompressorTelephone: +49 2203 601-2000
From air taxis to regional jetsWhile electrically-powered vehicles are an increasingly common sight on the roads, electric aircraft are still a comparative novelty. For some time, the industry has been working on a more electric aircraft – an aircraft with increasingly electrified on-board systems. All-electric aircraft – with electric primary propulsion – are very much still in their infancy, but the market will grow rapidly over the next few years. As this happens, the major airlines will have to make sure that they stay ahead of the competition as new companies enter the field. O
Innovative engine systems are changing air transportIn order to address the challenges of environment-friendly and efficient air transport, researchers at the DLR Institute of Propulsion Technology are investigating and developing new engine technologies and propulsion concepts for aviation. Over recent years, aeronautics researchers have increasingly been focusing on new systems, such as electric propulsion systems.
Research into climate-neutral air transportAgainst the backdrop of climate change, the aviation industry is increasingly becoming the focus of debate in wider society. Innovations geared towards more environment-friendly air transport are becoming more prevalent. The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) presented its expertise and research work relating to alternative fuels, electric flight, uncrewed flight and atmospheric research at the German National Aeronautics Conference on 21 August 2019 in Leipzig.
Emission-free electric flight – current projects and technologiesElectric flight opens up a new dimension in aviation and offers unprecedented opportunities for sustainable mobility in the future. A growing number of projects in both research institutions and industry are investigating how electric – and thus emission-free and low-noise – aircraft concepts can be implemented and which application scenarios are the most promising. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is a pioneer in the field of electric flight. It is unique in Europe in the way it combines fundamental and application-oriented research in this field.
Electric flight – Collaborative research to make a vision come trueElectromobility is already deeply ingrained in the European automotive industry and transport research. Moreover, the development of electrical drive systems for automotive applications has also given momentum to the vision of electric and carbon-neutral aviation.