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Hydrogen-Powered Ultralight Wins E-Flight Award

Hydrogen-powered trike
Gérard Thevenot and his hydrogen-powered trike

Scientists predict that someday we might use hydrogen as a fuel for our transportation needs. It’s clean burning and manufactured from electricity, so the supply of hydrogen will never be dependent on a single energy source. That distant future can be seen flying today in Frenchman Gérard Thevenot’s hydrogen fuel cell–powered trike, which won the E-Flight Award at the Aero 2010 International Exhibition for General Aviation.

The “E” in E-Flight stands for “Ecological, Electrical, and Evolutionary.” His weight-shift trike is all of that. As a reminder to those of us born in the previous millennium, a fuel cell is a little like a battery, except instead of charging it with electricity, you feed it a fuel (usually hydrogen) and it makes electricity continuously without any combustion, producing only water vapor. The very light trike has an empty weight of only 121 pounds including the fuel cell stack, the 11-hp electric motor, and 5 liters of hydrogen good for about one hour of flight. He made history in July 2009 by flying his hydrogen-powered trike across the English Channel. Gérard Thevenot is a hang-gliding pioneer and designer credited with many design innovations since 1975. His company, La Mouette, builds hang gliders, trike wings, and paramotors, and also had manufactured the Cosmos line of trikes. No newcomer to fuel cells, he won the 2006 Shell Eco-marathon in a hydrogen fuel cell–powered automobile.

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