Are fuel cell-powered aircraft on the way?

Jon Lawson
GM fuel cell stack

As fuel cell technology is already gaining interest as a method of powering drones, it was only a matter of time before large firms looked to the technology for heavier aircraft. Liebherr-Aerospace and GM are teaming up to make a demonstrator model. It will be based on GM’s Hydrotec hydrogen fuel cell technology. Construction and testing will take place in a laboratory at Liebherr-Aerospace in Toulouse, France. 

“Aircraft are a great litmus test for the strength and versatility of our Hydrotec fuel cells,” said GM executive director – global Hydrotec, Charlie Freese. “Our technology can address customer needs in a wide range of uses - on land, sea, air or rail, and this collaboration with Liebherr could open up new possibilities for aircraft, transitioning to alternative energy power sources.”

“The change from the conventional to a hydrogen technology-based electrical power generation system means major systems modifications on board the aircraft that could result in better, more efficient performance of the plane. This we want to prove and test thoroughly. The advantage of Hydrotec fuel cell technology is that it has shown promise in extensive automotive and military programs, where it has shown to be reliable from the engineering and manufacturing perspectives. We are developing low emissions aerospace solutions,“ added Francis Carla, managing director and chief technology officer, Liebherr-Aerospace & Transportation SAS.

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