Zero-emission hydrogen cargo airship prototype planned for 2025

H2 Clipper presents a very compelling argument to bring back a highly controversial technology, saying that large electric airships, lifted and powered by green hydrogen, are ready to move massive cargo loads over enormous distances much faster than cargo ships and so inland logistics facilities with minimal ground to develop infrastructure, and all zero emissions.

We’re talking cargo loads up to 340,000 lb (150,000 kg – or the equivalent of about 115 Toyota Corollas), distances up to 6,000 miles (9,650 km or roughly the distance between Los Angeles and Barcelona) at cruising speeds in excess of 175 mph (280 km/h). or a little less than a third of the speed of a Dreamliner passenger plane – but 7-10 times faster than a cargo ship).

That’s an incredibly compelling set of numbers, especially given the cost; H2 Clipper claims it will cost a quarter of what today’s air freight services cost per ton-mile, making it an economically disruptive method of bulk cargo transportation as well as an opportunity to decarbonize transcontinental logistics operations.

Hydrogen airships, of course, have some reputation thanks to the tragic and compelling footage of the 1937 Hindenburg disaster. But as we discussed when we first unveiled H2 Clipper’s technology, there are many reasons people got the wrong message away from this incident, including some pretty heinous skull digging by helium lobbyists.

The H2Clipper would fly at about 10,000 feet, lifted and powered by green hydrogen

H2 clippers

With hydrogen gaining traction as a next-generation clean aviation fuel, why can’t it also be used as a cheap, green lift gas to open up these kinds of clean cargo transportation opportunities with minimal effort, if any, risk to human life?

In 2021, H2 Clipper was accepted into Dassault Systems’ 3D Experience Lab Accelerator program, giving this small company the opportunity to use state-of-the-art simulation and development tools to refine their design. The company conducted simulated wind tunnel testing using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), validated its ultra-low-drag aerodynamics, and gave some weight to the company’s fuel economy and operating cost estimates.

H2 Clipper has completed initial CFD testing to validate its low drag design and fuel economy estimates
H2 Clipper has completed initial CFD testing to validate its low drag design and fuel economy estimates

H2 clippers

At this stage, the company plans to have a prototype built by 2025 and fly a full-size hydrogen airship in 2028. It’s still a risky gamble for investors; the FAA currently bans hydrogen as a lift gas. But billions of dollars worth of green hydrogen projects are emerging around the world, so hydrogen itself will have a lobby group behind it like never before.

In this context, an interesting use case for hydrogen airships is to propel green hydrogen itself; H2 Clipper says these planes will beat trains, trucks, ships and even pipelines in price for hydrogen exports moving more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km) away. These “pipelines in the sky” will also be as green as the big hydrogen they move, adding another benefit that green H2 exporters may be willing to take some risk on.

You can watch H2 Clipper’s 20 minute presentation at the First International Hydrogen Aviation Conference in September 2020 in the video below.

H2 Clipper Presentation (1st International Hydrogen Aviation Conference Sept 2020) Updated Video

Source: H2 Clippers

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