Apus Successfully Draws Strategic Funding for Hydrogen-Powered Products
In addition to the i-2, Apus is developing the i-5, a 14-passenger commuter aircraft based at Strausberg Airport near Berlin. These vehicles will both be powered by Apus' own fuel-cell design and cost €1.4 million and €3.8 million, respectively.
A pilot and aviation enthusiast based in Berlin, the founder of LucaNet financial software will help support the Apus team toward its goal of certifying its first aircraft by 2025. A prototype of the i-2 design is expected to be ready for ground testing by the end of 2023, after the company has been working on it since 2015.
Battery power is provided during takeoff by the hybrid configuration, which combines fuel cells and batteries. Two electric motors will be mounted on the nacelle of the i-2, while four 150-kW motors will be mounted on the i-5. In the event of a failure in one part of the powertrain, each set of motors, fuel cells, battery set, and associated components and systems will be capable of running independently.
The wing of both aircraft designs is built with a gaseous hydrogen fuel tank integrated into it, and this essentially serves as a spar, reducing the overall weight of the aircraft. With the Tubestruct design, Apus expects to achieve an impressive 3,000 Wh/kg energy density. An aircraft's nose will house the fuel cells.
Green Options for Private Fliers and Regional Airlines
Scheffel told RichReport that he expects the i-2 to attract individuals and companies seeking convenient transportation but without the environmental impact of fossil fuel-powered aircraft. According to him, it will have a range of around 500 nm and a cruise speed of 160 knots, which will make it competitive with aircraft like the Cirrus SR20 piston single, which has a longer range of just over 700 nm.
It can be configured for a variety of multi-mission applications, including passenger and cargo services. In addition to carrying 1,770 kg (3,894 pounds), the airplane will cruise at 160 knots and have a range of 800 nautical miles.
The company chose gaseous hydrogen over liquid fuel because it believes the former will be more readily available at airports and airfields in the near to medium term since it can be delivered in mobile tanks. For the i-5, the company estimates seat-mile costs of just €0.13 and ton-mile costs of just €0.99 based on current hydrogen gas prices of around €5 per kilogram.
Lower Operating Costs
Additionally, the longer mean time between overhauls for fuel cells is expected to result in lower maintenance costs, according to Laurent Altenburger, Apus sales and business development manager. A Cessna 208B Grand Caravan turboprop single could be replaced by an i-5, which is estimated to cost 40 percent less to operate than a Cessna 208B. Around 20 percent of the operating costs of the i-2 are lower than those of the SR20.
A significant unknown in the timeline for the first hydrogen aircraft to enter service is how aviation regulators will certify the new propulsion technologyy hydrogen pioneer to have formally started the type certification application process with EASA, with an application having been filed with the European air safety agency. For the i-5 model, the company has made a type certificate application with Germany's LBA regulator.
In the timeline for the first hydrogen aircraft to enter service, it is still unclear how aviation regulators will certify the new propulsion technologyting revenue streams from its work supporting other aircraft manufacturers as an engineering subcontractor and also from flight services support.
The 135 kW to 150 kW electric motors that Apus had specified have no longer been manufactured by Rolls-Royce. The motors will be supplied by France's Safran group.
The G1000 avionics suite is expected to be provided by Garmin for the i-2 and i-5 aircraft. As well as Power Cell, Fraunhofer is assisting with the hydrogen storage tanks, as is aircraft-structures supplier Heggemann.
As part of last year's Aero Friedrichshafen show in Germany, Apus displayed a mockup of its i-2. Ailerons and elevators are controlled by conventional cables and rods on the outboard sides of the cockpit. An electro-hydraulic actuator will retract the landing gear.
With the current state of hydrogen propulsion capabilities, Apus's focus is on the general aviation and regional airline markets, according to Scheffel, who previously worked for German motor glider manufacturer Stemme.
“There is a stairway to heaven, there are a lot of steps involved in developing a larger zero-emission aircraft,” he said, “and you can't jump over the first. You have to design the basic technology and make it reliable with the lowest financial and risk investment possible.” Since the beginning, the company has ruled out battery-powered propulsion because it is not able to deliver the endurance and payload it feels is needed to be commercially viable in aviation.
The aircraft will be manufactured at Apus' existing Strausberg facility. Multiple new positions are now being advertised with the company expecting to hire 55 staff this year.