The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) has greenlit funding of EUR 26 million for a project which will take Germany one step closer to the dream of emissions-free flight. The BALIS project, undertaken by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), will develop the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) powertrain for aircraft with an output in the megawatt range.
“The goal is emission-free air transport, preferably whilst also creating jobs and added value in Germany,” BMVI’s state secretary Steffen Bilger is quoted in a . The direct aim of BALIS is to develop and test an HFC powertrain with an output of 1.5 megawatts – sufficient for powering domestic airborne craft with 40 to 60 seats at a range of 1,000 kilometres. A unique test facility will be built from scratch for the purpose.
"We are creating the foundation for energy conversion technology by developing an initial demonstration system in the 1.5 megawatt power class and working out the optimal mode of operation. Next, we want to transfer the technology into practical applications together with partners from research and industry," explains André Thess, director of the DLR’s Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics in the foregoing . He adds that these HFC systems could also one day be used in heavy-duty transport, road vehicles, trains or ships.
Most fuel cells are limited to the kilowatt range per module and it is not yet possible to combine such modules in aircraft. “There is a 'sound barrier' at 1.5 megawatts as far as the architecture and performance of current fuel cell system components are concerned,” explains Josef Kallo, a hydrogen drive expert at DLR, in the . “We want to exceed this limit and simultaneously bring together as few high-power fuel cell stacks as possible. To do this, we need novel approaches and new components.”