Menlo Park-based HyPoint, a developer of hydrogen fuel cell systems for aviation and urban air mobility, has unveiled the first operable prototype of its turbo air-cooled hydrogen fuel cell system.

The NASA award-winning fuel cell technology has been developed by an international team of engineers. It is claimed to deliver new levels of specific power and energy density and has recently passed key validation testing to prove its technical viability. Full-scale versions are expected from next year.

HyPoint believes the new cell will drive the commercial development of zero-emission e-aircraft, eVTOL, and urban air mobility vehicles, and serve an important role in the global effort to curb carbon emissions.

The arrival of zero-emission aviation has been hindered by the energy density limitations of lithium-ion batteries and the specific power limitations of hydrogen fuel cells. 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. By addressing these core technological barriers, HyPoint claims it will cut years off commercial delivery timelines for hydrogen aircraft and unlock the emerging hydrogen aviation market.

HyPoint’s approach uses compressed air for both cooling and oxygen supply to deliver a high-temperature fuel cell system that is three times lighter than comparable liquid-cooled low-temperature fuel cell systems. It also leverages a number of technical innovations including lightweight bipolar plates and a highly conductive, corrosion-resistant coating in order to significantly outperform existing systems. As a result, says HyPoint, it can potentially deliver a 50% reduction in total cost of ownership for aircraft makers.

“Last year we proved that hydrogen-electric aircraft are not only possible but inevitable — and now we are working hard to get a 100-seat zero-emission aircraft in the skies before 2030,” said Val Miftakhov, founder and CEO of ZeroAvia.

In September 2020, ZeroAvia became the first company to successfully complete a hydrogen-electric passenger aircraft flight. It went on to raise $21.4 million from Amazon, Shell, and a Bill Gates-backed fund. Miftakhov added, “The reality is that hydrogen fuel cells are the technological driver behind e-aircraft, and we are working closely with the team at HyPoint to test their systems for potential integration into future ZeroAvia aircraft.”

HyPoint also announced that it will begin work with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to further test and validate its hydrogen fuel cell technology.

“This functional prototype brings us one step closer to our vision of delivering efficient and cost-effective zero-carbon emission fuel cell technology to the aviation industry, which is expected to contribute up to a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 if left unchecked,” said Dr. Alex Ivanenko, founder and CEO of HyPoint.

“Over the past several months, interest in hydrogen companies has reached a fevered pitch, in part because the world is waking up to hydrogen as a clean, reliable, and abundant fuel source. The hydrogen economy is here,” said Jordan Levy, managing partner at SoftBank Capital NY and founding partner of Seed Capital Partners, an early-stage venture capital fund. “The team at HyPoint is among the world’s most experienced in the field of hydrogen fuel cell technology and, as an investor, we’re thrilled to be a part of HyPoint’s early success. We look forward to following their continued momentum.”