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PEM Fuel Cell MODEL for Conceptual Design of Hydrogen eVTOL AircraftA model and software for design and analysis of a Proton Exchange Membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) system are developed for hydrogen eVTOL aircraft. Examples are provided of stacks designed for 80 kWe and 500 kWe net electrical power. Examples are provided of eVTOL designed for 250 and 400 lb payload. The trade-offs included stack characteristics, hydrogen storage characteristics, and aircraft payload and range. The objectives were to identify the key technology drivers of a hydrogen rotorcraft, establish technology targets for a viable aircraft, and recommend research to address the fundamental pre-competitive barriers. The current U.S. infrastructure on hydrogen informed the targets and recommendations. The key conclusion is that the advances made in cell electrochemical power density over the last decade might allow a PEMFC system to meet, or even beat, piston engine powered light-utility rotorcraft. The development must focus on the key drivers of a hydrogen eVTOL. The drivers are ultra-light stack cooling and short-term hydrogen storage. A stack system of net electrical power 100−150 kWe with specific power 1.1 kWe/kg including air, cooling, and electrical subsystems, and a tank storage of 15% weight fraction hydrogen are the minimum targets to meet the performance of a modern piston-engine rotorcraft, with a range of 180 nautical miles, payload of 400 lb, and gross weight of about 1400 lb. This is defined as the objective aircraft. If only one target is met, an aircraft of half the range could be produced, with a 30% greater gross take-off weight. This is defined as an intermediate aircraft. Because definitive conclusions are premature without weights and loads data on a flight-worthy stack system, it is recommended that a fuel cell powered hydrogen eVTOL demonstrator be built and flown. The existing hydrogen infrastructure for cars provide ample opportunity to create a pilot program. About 12 metric tons of retail hydrogen are available for cars every day in California, which is less than 0.05% of the yearly hydrogen production in the U.S.. A hypothetical fleet of 100 aircraft, operating 3 flights a day, would increase the demand by 2.25 tons per day and require 140 MWh of renewable electricity for green hydrogen.
Document ID
Document Type
Contractor Report (CR)
Anubhav Datta (University of Maryland, College Park College Park, Maryland, United States)
Date Acquired
January 11, 2021
Publication Date
January 1, 2021
Subject Category
Aircraft Propulsion and Power
Funding Number(s)
WBS: 664817
TASK: NIA 601066
Distribution Limits
Portions of document may include copyright protected material.
Technical Review
NASA Peer Committee
Fuel Cell
Conceptual Design

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NameType 1502_Datta__CR 20210000284_081821.pdf STI