(p. B4) A fully fueled Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner can fly roughly 8,000 miles while ferrying 300 or so passengers and their luggage. A battery with the energy equivalent to that fuel would weigh about 6.6 million pounds. That’s why — despite environmental advantages — we don’t have battery-powered electric airliners.
But aviation companies working to make cleaner aircraft are exploring the use of hydrogen, the world’s most abundant element, to power both electric and combustion engines — and to make air travel more eco-friendly
. . .
When Val Miftakhov founded ZeroAvia to develop electric aircraft, he first considered battery power. A Siberian émigré and physicist, his earlier start-up converted gasoline cars to electric, then incorporated an improved charging system. But batteries can sustain only the shortest excursions, like training flights. . . .
ZeroAvia instead chose fuel cells, which are essentially a chemical battery that substitutes lighter-than-air hydrogen for the weighty lithium ion. Hydrogen is notable for its energy density — the amount of energy per kilogram — which is about three times that of jet fuel. The byproduct of burning hydrogen is water. Hydrogen can be made from water and renewable energy, although most is now made from natural gas, which is not particularly green.
Mr. Miftakhov acknowledged that hydrogen storage containers, which were generally designed for ground transportation, were not practical for aircraft. “We need to focus on reducing the weight,” he said, “We have some fairly low-hanging fruit.”
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(Note: the online version of the story was updated Nov. 22, 2021, and has the title “Can Hydrogen Save Aviation’s Fuel Challenges? It’s Got a Way to Go.”)