Air taxi developer Joby Aviation has completed a flight of its electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) craft fuelled only by liquid hydrogen, demonstrating the potential for emissions-free regional travel.

The Santa Cruz, California-based company said on 11 July that the aircraft flew 454nm (841km) over its base in Marina, California, on 24 June.


Source: Joby Aviation

Joby Aviation flew a demonstrator aircraft powered only by liquid hydrogen for 454nm 24 June 2024

“Traveling by air is central to human progress, but we need to find ways to make it cleaner,” says JoeBen Bevirt, the company’s founder and chief executive. “With our battery-electric air taxi set to fundamentally change the way we move around cities, we’re excited to now be building a technology stack that could redefine regional travel using hydrogen-electric aircraft.”

“Imagine being able to fly from San Francisco to San Diego, Boston to Baltimore, or Nashville to New Orleans without the need to go to an airport and with no emissions except water,” he adds.

The test flight, which the company says it believes is “the first forward flight of a vertical take-off and landing aircraft powered by liquid hydrogen”, was supported through the company’s partnership with the US Air Force’s Agility Prime Programme. The aircraft landed with 10% of its hydrogen fuel load remaining.

“Agility Prime has been very supportive of hydrogen-powered aircraft development and testing as it aligns with the programme’s goals to advance transformative vertical lift technologies and broader Department of Defense operational energy goals of energy substitution and diversification, and energy demand reduction,” says Jacob Wilson, acting branch chief of AFWERX Agility Prime.

The hydrogen-electric demonstrator aircraft is part of the firm’s future technology programme and is the result of collaboration between Joby and its wholly owned German subsidiary H2FLY. It was outfitted with a fuel tank that carried 40kg (88.2lb) of liquid hydrogen, and a reduced battery load. The hydrogen was fed into a fuel-cell system that powered the six rotors, with the batteries supporting for take-off and landing.

The converted aircraft had previously completed more than 25,000 miles of testing as a battery-electric aircraft, Joby adds.

Joby maintains that it will launch commercial operations with its eVTOL in 2025 using its battery-electric propulsion architecture. So far, it has raised “more than $2 billion” from investors that include Toyota, Delta Air Lines, SK Telecom, Uber and Baillie Gifford.

Last month the company acquired the autonomy division of start-up Xwing, enabling it to eventually deploy pilotless technology in its developmental eVTOL aircraft. Terms of the acquisition – paid for in shares of Joby’s stock – were not disclosed.