Boeing plans to test a hydrogen fuel cell-powered light-aircraft prototype next year:
The plane will be a small craft, and might have a top speed of only 70 miles per hour. Boeing is working with Intelligent Energy, a British fuel cell designer. “What we are designing is a demonstrator aircraft to see if it can be done,” said Boeing. “This technology is in its infancy but it has great potential.” The aircraft is based on the Diamond Dimona, an Austrian plane chosen for its light weight. Boeing engineers in Madrid have stripped out its fuel tank, replacing it with a bottle of compressed hydrogen that will feed into a fuel cell.
Dr Jon Moore, director of communications at Intelligent Energy, based in Loughborough, Leicestershire, said technological advances were now making such devices far lighter and cheaper, but aviation remained the biggest challenge.
“The secret lies in making a fuel cell powerful enough to get an aircraft off the ground and to keep it climbing,” he said. “That takes a huge amount of energy and it is a big obstacle.”