Hydrogen fuel cell and aircraft electrification technologies developed by Japan’s IHI will be further refined through projects initiated by the country’s New Energy and Industrial Development Organization (NEDO).

The two initiatives relate to Japan’s Next-Generation Aircraft Development Project and fall under NEDO’s Green Innovation Fund, says IHI.

IHI Hydrogen

Source: IHI

IHI will develop a 4MW-class fuel cell propulsion system that could power a future 40-seat regional aircraft

The hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system was developed by IHI Aerospace and under the next step it will scale this up to ”a four-megawatt-class” powertrain, says IHI.

“This zero-emission set-up would power an aircraft with more than 40 seats and feature a cruising duration of more than three hours.” 

An image released IHI shows a large hydrogen containment vessel in the rear of an aircraft powered by four electric motors. 

The University of Tokyo will furnish technical studies and international standardisation efforts to the project, which will run from 2024 to 2029.

The work will see IHI explore the design of the zero-emission propulsion system, including the optimal layouts and specifications of every component. A key goal will be for the system to demonstrate operation for over 3h on the ground.

NEDO has also selected IHI’s electric power control and thermal air management system for further exploration.

This will see IHI develop the “world’s most powerful electric aircraft turbo compressor”, it says.

“The company will leverage these core technologies to build a power control system integrating a hybrid electric propulsion system and a thermal and air management system employing an air conditioning system for airframes,” says IHI.

“It seeks to establish an airframe system concept that delivers lower fuel consumption than conventional aircraft.”

The electrification effort will run through March 2031.

NEDO is a national agency that supports the promotion of sustainability-related technologies.

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry recently announced the long-term of goal of developing an airliner indigenously, with sustainability a key consideration. In its discussion of future aircraft propulsion technology, it has emphasised hydrogen.