Micro Real Estate

Reduce Aviation Emissions with Hydrogen Powered Personal Aircraft

hydrogen powered Cessna 172

There are a few companies working on hydrogen-ifying (hydrogenating? Like hydrogenated fat? Idk the best term to use here) aircraft to reduce carbon emissions, the most notable of which are ZeroAvia and Universal Hydrogen.

They are both focused on commercial aviation, and for good reason – commercial aviation produces about 2% of the worlds greenhouse gasses. Though that’s not a much as electricity, heat, cars (10%), or concrete (8%), it is still a significant source of pollution.

However, the personal aircraft sector is left behind, and many small aircraft still run on LEADED fuel. Obviously, carbon emissions are bad for global warming, but lead is a major concern for the environment as well. There’s about 15,000 private jets in the USA, but also more than 200,000 small non-jet aircraft flown by recreational pilots. I don’t think it’s going to be possible to convince pilots to stop flying their aircraft for the sake of climate change, but I certainly think a hydrogen powered aircraft could take a bite out of the carbon emissions that those pilots are producing.

So, it’s one thing to create a small hydrogen powered aircraft (say a Cessna 172 converted to hydrogen), but it’s another thing to create the refueling infrastructure for those aircraft.

While that may be true, I think it would be relatively easy to install hydrogen refueling stations at small local airports, and make the hydrogen stations capable of filling not only planes, but cars as well. In this scenario, a central and somewhat larger airport could be picked as the initial hydrogen refueling station installation point, and then the surrounding smaller airports would also get hydrogen refueling stations.

By focusing on the larger airport (the destination airport) at first, all of the people coming from the smaller surrounding airports will see that hydrogen is available at one of their main destinations. Then if they ask for a hydrogen station at their local airport they would be able to fly a hydrogen powered plane to one of their main destinations.

Obviously, a lot of pilots fly their planes to multiple airports, but there is certainly a subset of pilots that flay back and forth mainly between two locations – think of snowbirds (Northeasterners who fly to Florida for the winter). Or basically any pilot that has a second home.

Obviously, the hydrogen aviation market is still in it’s infancy, and practically non-existent as of now because hydrogen technology has only recently been applied to aviation, but unless batteries get a lot more energy dense, the only option to decarbonize personal aviation is hydrogen.

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