Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe – rough estimates put it at 74% of all “standard” matter. Needless to say, a shortage on earth is unlikely.
Production: Hydrogen is present in many materials, but is found in the greatest quantities in water.
Use: Skai uses Hydrogen produced via electrolysis: an electrochemical process that extracts hydrogen from water using renewable electricity.
Clean, Safe Fuel Cells
Hydrogen Fuel cells, like batteries, produce electricity. However, batteries store their energy internally, while a fuel cell converts a fuel, such as hydrogen, into electricity.
It’s a simple process, invented back in 1838. In basic terms, hydrogen and oxygen are introduced into the fuel cell on opposite ends. An electrochemical reaction strips the hydrogen molecules of electrons, creating electricity which travels into the vehicle. Meanwhile, the "ionized" hydrogen molecules pass through a membrane in the fuel cell. The electrical circuit is completed by the electrons returning from the vehicle, which combine with the oxygen and ionized hydrogen molecules to create the system's only emission – pure water.
NASA's Gemini and Apollo space missions relied on fuel cells to power the command module and provide drinking water for the astronauts. NASA continued to use them in the space shuttle missions.
Hydrogen has been used across industry and aerospace for more than 80 years. Over that time, rigorous safety standards have been established, just as they have been for other fuels.
In fact, hydrogen is considered to be safer than gasoline. This is due to the fact that hydrogen is 14x lighter than air – it rises rapidly and dissipates quickly. The bottom line: with any fuel, proper safeguards must be implemented to reduce risks to their lowest possible levels. Skai has gone a step further, with double-walled stainless steel fuel tanks that can stop a .45 caliber bullet, and an array of sensors and safety components to mitigate any potential risks.
The Cleanest End-to-End Solution
Hydrogen fuel cells have the lowest ecological footprint of any practical energy system on the planet. That's because they're more than just non-polluting during use like batteries – their "cradle-to-grave" performance is far more environmentally friendly.
Materials & Production: Skai's fuel cell production uses environmentally neutral materials in addition to micro-level use of platinum. Its hydrogen fuel is sourced using renewable energy in a non-polluting process. Conversely, the mining and production of lithium, nickel and cobalt for batteries is energy-intensive, polluting and depletes natural resources. Hydrogen fuel cells offer a dramatically cleaner solution.
Operation: Skai’s hydrogen can be produced locally using solar, wind or hydroelectric power. As fuel for Skai's vehicle's fuel cells, it can fly 4-5 people for up to 4 hours. Batteries are typically charged using grid power, while today's grid is still largely fossil-fuel powered. Battery-powered air mobility systems are projected to fly 2 people for less than 30 minutes.
End Of Life: Skai’s fuel cells have a long continuity of use. 95% of the precious metals in fuel cells can be recycled and a majority of the other components can be reused. At end-of-life, batteries perform poorly in terms of environmental impact, with safe disposal issues, low recycling rates, and ecological toxicity that can affect human health.
Pound for Pound
In addition to the environmentally positive qualities of hydrogen fuel, it’s also the ideal energy for air mobility.
Hydrogen fuel cell systems provide 3 to 6 times greater energy density by mass than lithium-ion batteries. Batteries are a great solution for some applications, but their heavy weight and lower relative energy make them less than ideal for flight.
Skai's current configuration gives it the ability to fly continuously for up to 4 hours, and with auxiliary tanks it can remain airborne longer for specialized applications.
Hydrogen is gaining momentum as a fuel system around the world. The combination of abundance, energy capability and ecobalance makes it an attractive option.
Today, hydrogen fuel cells are powering more than 20,000 forklifts in the US, typically replacing battery-powered systems that require long charging times and use large amounts of space.
In addition, more than 240 megawatts of backup power will be generated in the US – enough to power 240,000 homes. For the first time, fuel cell mobility is the #1 trend among auto executives. Germany plans to have 200 hydrogen refueling stations by 2023, and Japan plans to have 320 by 2025.
This global move towards hydrogen means that infrastructure will continue to develop and costs will become increasingly competitive with other, less environmentally-positive energy types.
In addition to hydrogen’s positive environmental and energy performance, it offers an additional promise: increased energy independence.
The benefits are far-reaching: reduced dependence on fossil fuels as well as raw materials necessary for battery production, leading to improved energy security. Increased domestic employment and economic growth with an enhanced clean-energy economy. We believe that Skai will help accelerate this positive movement.