Embraer Unveils Energia H2 Fuel Cell, Hybrid Electric Concepts

Embraer Unveils Energia H2 Fuel Cell, Hybrid Electric Concepts

DALLAS — Embraer has unveiled today its new Energia H2 Fuel Cell and Hybrid Electric concepts to be applied to the manufacturer’s 19-to-30-seat aircraft.

The new commuter and regional aircraft showcased at the ‘Embraer 2022: The Shape of Things to Come‘ presentation are aimed at helping assess the technical and economic viability of the novel propulsion systems for their subsequent implementation on larger Embraer aircraft.

Embraer started off the presentation by saying that the Energia Family’s Hybrid Electric concept, powered by jet fuel or sustainable aircraft fuel (SAF) and small batteries, is simpler when it comes to its technology and implementation than the Energia H2 Fuel Cell concept.

As a result, the hybrid concept could potentially be technology-ready in the early 2030s, according to Embraer.

The company added that the Energia H2 Fuel Cell concept, designed for at least 200 nautical miles, had the potential to become the first clean-sheet H2-powered aircraft with zero carbon emissions, presenting robust technology readiness around 2035.

Embraer noted that it would need additional infrastructure and technological advancements if the new aircraft were to have zero emissions.

Let’s take a look at the two concepts in more detail.

Energia H2 Fuel Cell concept. Image: Embraer

Energia H2 Fuel Cell

When hydrogen is fed into a fuel cell persistent contrails are much less likely at typical altitudes for propeller-driven aircraft. H2 fuel cells also have the potential to run as a single propulsive power source or as a hybrid one in combination with thermal engines and batteries.

The fuel cell stacks are located at the rear of the fuselage. There, H2 reacts with oxygen from the ambient air to produce electric power and water as the main outputs.

Energy conversion in fuel cells is more efficient than in small gas turbine engines. The caveat is that fuel cells are heavier and dissipate a great deal of heat. This means Embraer had to design an optional thermal management system.

Air Inlet view. Image: Embraer

One solution is an air inlet at the base of the vertical tail that feeds ram air to the heat exchange, addressing part of the fuel cell heat rejection with a carefully designed flow path, which can also minimize drag and provide further thrust at cruise conditions.

Fuel cell placement. Image: Embraer

The propellers are at the rear of the aircraft, reducing noise inside the cabin, while electric motors will help reduce external noise. Having the propellers at the rear of the aircraft also allows Embraer to design an efficient clean sheet concept where the wings are unaffected by the propellers or the fuel cells.

Image: Embraer
Cabin view. Image: Embraer

The first iteration of the cabin concept is a 19-seater with a three-abreast configuration. Embraer pointed out that the cabin will be made of sustainable materials and will be inspired by the company’s E-Jets and Executive aircraft to maximize the passenger experience.

Energia Hybrid Electric concept. Image: Embraer

Energia Hybrid Electric

The Energia Hybrid Electric concept is a smaller and lighter aircraft when compared to the Fuel Cell concept. It features smaller wings, repositioned for a better center of gravity position. There is no need for an air inlet at the base of the vertical tail as the type does not require large heat exchangers.

The aircraft employs a parallel-hybrid electric architecture that maximizes the synergies between thermal and electric engines. Next-gen, cruise-optimized thermal engines are key to delivering fuel consumption reduction.

Energia Hybrid Electric concept. Image: Embraer

The small electric engines are used when shorter power boosts are required, i.e. for taxiing, taking off, or climbing. The electric engines also eliminate the need for batteries which significantly increase the weight of the aircraft.

As with the H2 Fuel Cell concept, the Hybrid Electric aircraft also features a clean-wing design.

Clean-wing design. Image: Embraer

Embraer started with a broad perspective of aircraft concepts, a big step toward its goal of zero carbon emissions innovation by 2050.

Today, the Brazilian manufacturer took the Energia Family to the next phase with these new aircraft concepts, as the race for zero emissions continues toward a sustainable aviation industry.

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Featured image: Embraer

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