Alaka'i build flying cars on hydrogen, because they do not believe in batteries

Hydrogen fuel cells are moving with great difficulty as a power source for electric ground, but many are starting to look for alternative ways of moving without emissions. New startup air taxi, Alaka'i Technologies, presented an electric plane for five passengers, operating on liquid hydrogen, which, according to the creators, will be more effective and powerful than aircraft on batteries, which develop numerous competitors this week.

Alaka'i build flying cars on hydrogen, because they do not believe in batteries

What's better: electricity or hydrogen?

Company to establish a "flying car" is in Massachusetts, and it is led by people from NASA, Raythein, Airbus, Boeing and the Ministry of Defense. The other day, she introduced the aircraft layout with six screws called Skai in Los Angeles, in the office of BMW Designworks, which collaborated on the design of the aircraft. Alaka'i says that the final product will be able to fly up to four hours and cover 600 kilometers in a single load of fuel, which can be recharged in 10 minutes at a hydrogen filling station. According to the company, it has established a full-scale functional prototype, which made its first flight "in the near future."

Alaka'i build flying cars on hydrogen, because they do not believe in batteries

It would not be the first aircraft on hydrogen fuel cells; Boeing did so in 2008. But he will be the first of its kind. Skai box-like configuration has an aerodynamic appearance, as in the prototype of Lilium, Bell and yes, Boeing. It accelerates only 224 km / h, whereas other eVTOL concept (electric apparatus VTOL) promise to speed up to 270 km / h. Skai designed more for efficiency, which is important more than the maximum speed if the implement dozens of short hops every day.

"Our goal was to make it simple, we have focused on creating a particular image multiple repetition throughout the day," says NASA veteran Bruce Holmes, part of Alaka'i board.

The argument for the fuel cell is reduced to the energy density: lb (about a pound) compressed hydrogen contains 200 times more energy than a pound batteries, said founder Alaka'i Brian Morrison. This means that Skai can meet the requirements for speed, range and carrying capacity, which, in the opinion of Alaka'i, make it competitive, while allowing significantly save weight - a major consideration for everything that flies. Although the company did not disclose the specifics of the power system, she said that she and her provider fuel cell (which is also not disclosed) Failed to make a "breakthrough" technology that provides the desired performance.

Hydrogen fuel cells prove their ability to significantly increase the time of transport systems: some small drones passed with 30-45 minutes of work on the batteries to 2-4 hours of fuel cell, says Thomas Valdez, a chemical engineer Teledyne Energy Systems. And they offer safety benefits, eliminating the risk of thermal runaway. Even pierced the tank is not a problem. "Under the pressure of the hydrogen dissipates quickly in the air, so will not accumulate or light as conventional fuels," says Valdez.

Of course, as with all start-ups associated with air taxi from Skai many challenges remain. Chief among them is the provision of timely receipt of FAA certificate, which is not guaranteed, considering the installation of a new propulsion system in the apparatus of a new type. Holmes believes that there will help them a simple design.

Alaka'i build flying cars on hydrogen, because they do not believe in batteries

"We have much less spare parts than conventional aircraft and half of requirements which must check the FAA", he says. In Skai no tail rotor, and a ballistic parachute means that he does not need to rely on auto-rotation for a safe landing when power drops. Six screws 450 which generate horsepower, are in fixed position and rotated to a vertical or horizontal takeoff.

To cope with this problem, Alaka'i plans to skip the service of air taxi at an early stage, focusing instead on emergency services, search and rescue missions and the transport of goods. These roles do not require the same certification standards, and passenger flights. Extremely optimistic assessment Holmes certification will take several months (and will be completed by the end of 2020) instead of the standard five-ten years.

In hydrogen, of course, there is a drawback, namely the fact that it is not so, and many around. The lack of a gas infrastructure hinders the work of ground vehicles that run on hydrogen, but the plane may be easier. Instead of relying on gas stations on every corner, the aircraft may have more centralized refueling centers, supplied by tankers.

Another potential obstacle could be equipment costs.

"Hydrogen fuel cells are used in space vehicles for a long time. It is a proven technology, "says Charles Eastlake, professor emeritus of aerospace engineering at the University of Aviation them. Embry-Riddle. "But it prevents the cost."

He notes that a project of electric aircraft, which the University has undertaken in 2011, comprising a fuel cell, which would cost 250 thousand dollars in the open market, and it's all for the power of a relatively small 40-horsepower electric motor. Although the technology has since only improved, and the cost falls, it will fall is not much, considering that most of the dollars going to the R & D goes to the battery.

Alaka'i said first plane, and only then realized highly automated and fully autonomous mode will be first launched. A startup focused on the price of about 200 000 dollars, although the first models are likely to be much more expensive. The volume of production will be about 10 000 per year. This is a huge number: none of the manufacturers do not produce more than 700 aircraft.

Ultimately Alaka'i wants to create versions that are available for all citizens, but in the price range that luxury cars. The key difference, of course, is that these cars will be able to fly.

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