After the already successful small electric-powered machines, Pipistrel is starting a new direction of development, and the Slovenian manufacturer plans to launch a hydrogen-powered regional passenger carrier within 10 years.
One of the areas with the greatest potential for the development of aircraft powered by renewable energy is the hydrogen fuel cell design, which according to some opinions has more potential in the longer term than electric propulsion, replacing fossil fuels. Slovenian aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel has just announced that it will be one of the first in the world to develop such a propulsion passenger car, with plans to launch the first units in 2030, within ten years. Contributing to the relatively short target date for marketing is Pipistrel’s participation in two EU-funded research programs, of which Unifier is already working on hydrogen powertrain development, Flightglobal wrote. Introduced under the fancy name Miniliner, the new concept is planned to take 19 passengers on board and will have a range of about 1,800 kilometers with a refueling of liquid hydrogen.
However, according to Pipistrel, an aircraft of this size can optimally operate on short-haul routes of 3-400 kilometers. The significantly longer range is intended to overcome the initial difficulties of service, so that it is sufficient to refuel the aircraft after a round trip if there is not enough infrastructure at the destination. In addition, separate batteries are planned to cover the exceptionally high energy requirements of engines designed for a total power of 2 mW during take-off. It is expected that in the vast majority of cases the performance of the fuel cells will be sufficient, but with the batteries it will be possible to take off from an extra short runway of up to 800 meters. Another goal of the manufacturer is to make the model 40 percent cheaper to operate than a conventionally powered aircraft of the same size.
The design has not yet been finalized, there are three different versions on the design table, these have in common the fuselage and the composite wing, but the design of the motors and the tail section, for example, are different. Details have not been made public for this reason, but news has reportedly already been agreed with suppliers, and a French and an Irish airline have already joined the program. However, the lack of a secure financial background is likely to require the help of external investors to get sales up and running on the production line in Slovenia. Getting the money is hoped it won’t be a big challenge because the market demand for the Miniliner is estimated at 1,500 units.