Last month, the HY4 – the world’s first four-seater hydrogen fuel cell plane took off for the first time at the Stuttgart airport in Germany.  The plane, which impressed visitors at Hannover Messe earlier this year, was developed by researchers from the German Aerospace Center (known in German under the acronym DLR) with help from Hydrogenics, Pipistrel, H2FLY, the University of Ulm and Stuttgart Airport.

DLR made the hydrogen fuel cell power train, which consists of a hydrogen storage system, a low-temperature hydrogen fuel cell and a battery. The hydrogen is carried in two high-pressure tanks, made of carbon fiber, located in each of two fuselages by the passenger cabin.

As the HY4 team explains, the fuel cell converts hydrogen directly into electrical energy and the only waste product is water. An electric motor uses the power generated from that process to propel the aircraft. “If the hydrogen required for the fuel cell is generated via electrolysis using power from renewable energy sources, the HY4 can fly without generating any emissions at all,” HY4 says on its website.

“With the HY4, we now have an optimal platform to continue developing the use of fuel cells on aircraft,” said University of Ulm professor Joseph Kallo. “Small passenger aircraft, such as the HY4, could soon be used in regional transport as electric air taxis and offer a flexible and rapid alternative to existing means of transport.”

Violeta Bulc, EU Transport Commissioner on Zero Emission Flying, added that the development could also has positive economic implications.

“The Commission firmly supports such initiatives, which are fully in line with our new strategy for low-emission mobility,” said Bulc. “Aviation plays an important role in bringing people together, connecting large cities as well as remote locations. It also ensures businesses can grow and develop.”

For more on the HY4, check out the video below: