This hydrogen-powered air taxi might be the future of sustainable commuting

This new ultra-sustainable air taxi is powered by hydrogen.

Alaka’i Technologies made Skai, a five-passenger aerial vehicle designed for ordinary commuters. Other vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircrafts rely on lithium batteries or gasoline as fuel which makes them less energy efficient. But hydrogen fuel cells are more energy-dense and generate zero pollution.

The weight-to-energy ratio of an aerial vehicle’s fuel is important because heavier materials can bog them down and limit their range by requiring more frequent refuels. Hydrogen is a viable alternative because it has 10 times the energy density of lithium batteries. Thus, Skai has a 400-mile range, can refuel in less than 10 minutes and has up to two hours of flight time while able to carry up to 1,000 pounds.

But the real story is the more sustainable approach to manufacturing VTOL aircraft. Skai’s hydrogen is produced using environmentally neutral materials and renewable energy. About 95 percent of the fuel cells can be reused while the remainder can be recycled with a 99 percent efficiency. The only emission the air taxis release is water.

Even the design of the vehicle is simple and modern so that it is easily replicated and manufactured in large numbers. It’s propelled by a low-noise, six-rotor multi-copter and its no-frills interior looks quite utilitarian with five gray seats. Unlike helicopters, landing the air taxi is just more practical. Skai doesn’t require hubs or helipads. It can land and take off from driveways, rooftops and parking lots.

The larger mission of Alaka’i Technologies is to reduce harmful emissions, traffic congestion and noise pollution. Skai intends to replace or at least supplement regular commuting methods by democratizing air travel.

If you enjoyed this story, check out this engineer who’s making fishing boats out of plastic bottles.

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