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Electric flight is the future

The electrification of aviation

Electric flight – emission-free, with a new look and quieter
Electric flight – emission-free, with a new look and quieter
Image 1/9, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

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
First flight of four-passenger fuel cell aircraft
Image 2/9, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

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
Image 3/9, Credit: DLR.

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
Image 4/9, Credit: Jean-Marie Urlacher.

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.

Artist's impression
Artist's impression
Image 5/9, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Artist's impression

Electric passenger aircraft

DLR's four-seater fuel cell aircraft HY4
DLR's four-seater fuel cell aircraft HY4
Image 6/9, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

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
The HY4 makes cleaner, quieter, more energy-efficient and safer flight possible
Image 7/9, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

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
Hydrogen fuel cell drive
Image 8/9, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

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.

Electric passenger aircraft
Electric passenger aircraft
Image 9/9, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Electric passenger aircraft

Artist' s impression of the electric passenger aircraft ADEC.

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.

Contact
  • Dr. Andreas Klöckner
    Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR)

    Programme Strategy Aeronautics
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-2449
    Linder Höhe
    51147 Köln
    Contact
  • Annabel Brückmann
    Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR)

    Programme Strategy Aeronautics
    Telephone: +49 2203-601-5080
    Linder Höhe
    51147 Köln
    Contact
  • Dr.-Ing. Florian Wolters
    Coordinator Electric Propulsion
    German Aerospace Center (DLR)

    DLR Institute of Propulsion Technology, Fan and Compressor
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-3796
    Linder Höhe
    51147  Köln
    Contact
  • Rainer Schnell
    Team Lead Fan
    German Aerospace Center (DLR)

    DLR Institute of Propulsion Technology, Fan and Compressor
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-2000
    Linder Höhe
    51147  Köln
    Contact
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