The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

On The Radar

Element 1 and Nexa Make the Case For Methanol-to-Hydrogen Propulsion

With hydrogen increasingly gaining favor as an attractive fuel option for aircraft more attention is turning to how it can be supplied in sufficient volumes, and also how it can be produced in a way that supports the industry’s zero-emissions objectives. The aviation sector needs firm assurances that supplies will be cost-effective and meet the so-called ‘green hydrogen’ mark for being environmentally sustainable, taking account of the full production process.

Last month Nexa Capital Partners, a financial group active in the advanced air mobility sector, announced it is joining forces with energy technology group Element 1 to advance the adoption of the latter’s methanol-to-hydrogen generators for fuel cell-based powerplants for electric aircraft and other applications. The partners maintain that methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, is a highly efficient hydrogen carrier, delivering a greater volume of recoverable hydrogen fuel than an equivalent volume of liquid hydrogen. As for its green credentials, they say that methanol produced from biomass, wind, and other processes cuts carbon dioxide emissions by up to 95 percent compared with conventional fuels, and cuts nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 90 percent.

Oregon-based Element 1 claims to have developed the world’s only scalable methanol-to-hydrogen generator. It is already active in supporting both stationary and mobile applications, including trains, ground vehicles, and marine vessels. With Nexa’s support, it now intends to pursue opportunities with aviation partners.

“Our hydrogen generators, when paired with fuel cells, will improve the performance of electric aircraft by generating onboard power for propulsion as well as by recharging onboard batteries,” said Element 1 president and CEO Dave Edlund. “Element 1’s solutions, using a hydrogen dense mixture of methanol and water, will significantly extend the range of aircraft beyond what may be typically be achieved using onboard compressed hydrogen.”

A presentation given by Nexa Capital Partners provides an easily-absorbed summary of how the methanol to hydrogen power concept works in an aviation context.