HyPoint is pioneering zero-emission hydrogen aviation, aeronautics, and urban air mobility.
HyPoint’s breakthrough turbo air-cooled high-temperature hydrogen fuel cell system is the first of its kind to feature an air-cooling and oxygen supply system. HyPoint’s system offers unprecedented energy performance: at least 2,000 watts per kilogram of specific power and up to 1,500 watt-hours per kilogram of energy density, with plans to increase specific power to 3,000 watts per kilogram by 2024. The lightweight, climate-independent, extended-lifespan system dramatically increases operational time and utilization rate while decreasing total cost of ownership by as much as 50%.
In 2020, the company won the NASA iTech Initiative in which inventive technologies were ranked based on criteria that included technical viability, benefits to humanity, and commercialization potential.
By addressing core technological barriers associated with zero-emission flight, HyPoint is poised to cut years off commercial delivery timelines for hydrogen aircraft and unlock the emerging hydrogen aviation market, which has an anticipated 2030 valuation of $27 billion growing to at least $174 billion by 2040. HyPoint has announced agreements with ZeroAvia, the leading hydrogen aviation company, as well as eVTOL makers such as Piasecki Aircraft, which has partnered with HyPoint to develop the world’s first manned hydrogen-powered helicopter.
Why zero-emission aviation is critical right now
Globally, aviation produced 2.4% of total CO2 emissions in 2018. While this may seem like a relatively small amount, consider that if aviation was a country, it would rank 6th in the world between Japan and Germany in terms of total CO2 emissions. Non-CO2 effects, such as warming induced by aircraft contrails and other pollutants, bring aviation’s combined total contribution to global warming to approximately 5%. By 2050, this is expected to increase to 25% as other industries decarbonize more quickly than aviation.
The barriers to zero-emission aviation are specific power and energy density — and neither batteries nor traditional hydrogen fuel cells have been able to deliver
There are several limitations to existing lithium-ion batteries: they can’t deliver enough power, they’re heavy, and they require frequent charging. On the other hand, existing hydrogen fuel cell systems require liquid-cooling architecture that is as much as two times heavier than the fuel cells themselves.
While it takes at least 500 Wh/kg to fly a plane for 600 miles or an eVTOL/air taxi 100 miles, current battery technology can only achieve 200 Wh/kg. Additionally, battery charging time determines a vehicle’s utilization rate (e.g. operational vs. idle/charging time).
Hydrogen has the necessary energy requirements to work:
- 180x more specific energy than lithium batteries (120 MJ/kg vs 0.65 MJ/kg)
- 3x more specific energy than gasoline (120 MJ/kg vs 44 MJ/kg)
- No charging time constraints
The only barrier preventing hydrogen-powered aviation has been specific power: aviation requires 1500 W/kg, but traditional hydrogen fuel cell systems have only been able to achieve 600 W/kg.
HyPoint’s NASA award-winning turbo air-cooled hydrogen fuel cell system delivers the specific power and energy density that aircraft makers require
In early 2021, HyPoint unveiled its NASA award-winning hydrogen fuel cell system designed for aviation, which is expected to begin shipping in 2023. HyPoint’s breakthrough approach to cooling hydrogen fuel cells is entirely new, providing aircraft makers for the first time with a viable hydrogen power option years earlier than expected.
HyPoint’s revolutionary approach utilizes compressed air for both cooling and oxygen supply to deliver a high-temperature fuel cell system that is three times lighter than existing fuel cell systems — representing a total weight reduction of more than 60%. It also leverages a number of technical innovations including lightweight bipolar plates and a highly conductive, corrosion-resistant coating in order to radically outperform existing systems.
Testing has shown that HyPoint’s turbo air-cooled hydrogen fuel cell system will be able to achieve up to 2,000 watts per kilogram of specific power, which is more than triple the power-to-weight ratio of traditional hydrogen fuel cells systems. It will also boast up to 1,500 watt-hours per kilogram of energy density, enabling longer-distance journeys.
HyPoint’s turbo air-cooled hydrogen fuel cell system is the first of its kind to use both air-cooling and turbocharging.
While liquid-cooling was historically used to provide rigid thermal stability, HyPoint increased the maximum operating temperature of the system from 70℃ to 160℃ and developed specialized fuel cell bipolar plates with the necessary thermal conductivity. It consists of three primary components: the fuel cell modules (fuel cell stacks + integrated control components), a compression system, and a cooling fan with ducting. The simpler design eliminates the entire liquid cooling circuit, including the liquid coolant, pump, and tubing; radiator; and humidifier. Additionally, there is no need for a buffer battery in most aircraft designs because the system has a high specific power that can easily vary the power supply from 10% to 100%.
HyPoint uses “turbo compression” to boost power output and “turbo expansion” to reduce the power overhead, resulting in unprecedented operational efficiency. A turbo expander minimizes the energy consumed by air compression. Further, the design incorporates one to three compression stages, depending on the maximum altitude of the aircraft. When combined with the turbo compressors, these measures result in a 70% increase in the system’s available power.
With its ability to partially recirculate the cooling airflow, the HyPoint system maintains a stable temperature range across the fuel cell module, regardless of ambient conditions. The higher safe operational temperature of high temperature fuel cells allows the cooling system to reject heat efficiently in any weather condition and at any reasonable operational altitude. The cooling never consumes more than 5% of the total power and together with the compression system’s low power consumption, the HyPoint system achieves an excellent operational efficiency of 40% to 50%, depending on the aircraft’s operational mode.
To further boost the system’s specific power, its design incorporates light-weight materials in the proprietary fuel cells. The bipolar plate, often the heaviest component of a fuel cell, is made from aluminum “foil”. Aluminum offers the excellent thermal and electrical conductivity needed by bipolar plates, but aluminum “foil” bipolar plates would not have been possible without the conductive, corrosion-resistant coatings developed by HyPoint.
The system contains between 12 to 20 fuel cell modules, depending on required output power and voltage. By integrating the control components with the fuel cell stacks into a modular design, HyPoint has increased the reliability of the system and can customize the output voltage using parallel-to-serial connections. Finally, the modular approach provides dimensional flexibility to meet the strict placement requirements of HyPoint customers.
HyPoint vs. lithium battery systems
The system provides the following advantages for air transportation when compared with lithium batteries:
- 7.5x higher energy density (1,500 Wh/kg vs. 200 Wh/kg)
- 6x faster refueling (up to 15 min vs. at least 90 minutes)
HyPoint vs. existing hydrogen fuel cell systems
The system offers many additional advantages over traditional hydrogen fuel cell systems:
- 3x higher specific power (2,000 W/kg vs. 700 W/kg) – with plans to increase to 3,000 W/kg by 2024
- Climate independence (easy to cool, doesn’t use water, impervious to freezing)
- Lower hydrogen quality requirements (CO: 1% vs 0.0001%) → lower operational costs
- Simpler design: fewer parts → higher reliability, lower acquisition and maintenance costs
- Suitability for large scale integration with manned and unmanned airborne applications
- More reliable under overload (important in emergency case)
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