It is understood that the airship has a cargo load of up to 340,000 pounds (150,000 kilograms — or the equivalent of about 115 Toyota Corollas), travels up to 6,000 miles (9,650 kilometers, or about the distance between Los Angeles and Barcelona), and cruises Speeds in excess of 175 mph (280 km/h, or slightly less than 1/3 the speed of the Dreamliner — but 6-9 times faster than a cargo ship).
That’s an incredible set of numbers, especially considering the cost. H2 Clipper says it costs 1/4 the ton-mile per ton-mile of air freight services today, making it an economically disruptive way to move bulk cargo, and an opportunity to decarbonize the transcontinental logistics business.
Of course, hydrogen airships have a bit of a reputation thanks to the tragic and dramatic footage of the 1937 Hindenburg disaster. But as we discussed when we first introduced the H2 Clipper technology, people may have gotten the wrong message from that incident, including some outrageous shenanigans from the helium lobbyists, for a number of reasons.
With hydrogen gaining momentum as the next-generation clean aviation fuel, there’s a compelling reason to question why it can’t also be used as a cheap, green lift gas to open up possibilities for the transportation of these clean goods.
In 2021, the H2 Clipper was accepted into Dassault Systems’ 3DExperience Lab accelerator program, giving the small company the ability to refine its designs using state-of-the-art simulation and development tools. The company has completed simulated wind tunnel tests using computational fluid dynamics and verified its ultra-low drag aerodynamics. Plus, it provides some support for the company’s fuel consumption and operating cost estimates.
At this stage, the company plans to build a prototype by 2025 and have a full-scale hydrogen airship by 2028. It’s still a risky game for investors. For now, the FAA still bans hydrogen as a liftoff gas. But billion-dollar green hydrogen projects are popping up around the world, so hydrogen itself has an unprecedented lobby to support it.
In this context, an interesting use case for hydrogen airships is the transport of green hydrogen itself. H2 Clipper said the planes would beat rail, trucks, ships and even pipelines for transporting any hydrogen export beyond 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) in price. These “air pipelines” will also be as green as the bulk hydrogen they divert, with the added benefit that green hydrogen exporters may be willing to take some risks.