Alaka’i Technologies Launches World’s First Hydrogen-Powered Air Mobility System
This Mass. Startup Exits Stealth With its Electric Flying Taxi
It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a …locally-made electric flying shuttle.
Wednesday, Hopkinton, Mass.-based startup Alaka’i Technologies exited stealth mode with the launch of Skai, the world’s first hydrogen-powered electric vehicle designed for air mobility. Powered by hydrogen fuel that’s stored on board, Skai works on six electric motors and can fly up to four hours or 400 miles without refueling, ferrying five passengers including the pilot.
“We wanted to solve an age-old problem of traffic congestion and pollution,” said Brian Morrison, co-founder and CTO of Alakai Technologies.
Morrison and Alaka’i’s CEO Steve Hanvey were both a part of the Advanced General Aviation Transport Experiments or (AGATE), a public-private partnership launched in 1994 as a collaboration between NASA, FAA and the aviation industry to devise an aviation system that would replace short distance transportation.
“[AGATE] sowed the seeds for personal air transportation 25 years ago,” said Morrison. “And here we are today building this vehicle fueled by hydrogen.”
Morrison founded Alaka’i Technologies in 2007 and, in that same year, the company won FAA approvals for its engine trend monitoring system and digital flight data recording system. The idea for Skai was developed in 2012 and Morrison worked on patenting the vehicle from 2012 to 2018. He noted that the company didn’t start building the prototype until May 2018.
“We went from concept to prototype in less than 12 months, and now we’re exiting stealth mode,” Morrison said.
Skai, which boasts of being environmentally friendly with clean zero emissions and carbon free travel, was developed in collaboration with Designworks, a BMW Group Company that served as the industrial design partner.
Morrison noted that Skai’s ability to fly for four hours without refueling is more efficient than comparable electric vehicles today. And he credits that to the energy density.
“The unit of energy that Skai’s six motors can store is about 226 times higher than lithium-ion batteries,” Morrison said.
While the company still awaits FAA approval, those in Stowe, Massachusetts, might just be lucky enough to spot one of these vehicles flying over the Minuteman Field. Morrison envisions Alakai running its own commercial operations, similar to ridesharing apps like Lyft and Uber once the company starts producing the vehicles.
But until then, Skai will be adapted to multiple non-commute purposes like SkaiMed, which is a First Responder, EMS and Medivac service, SkaiCargo, a feeder route and last mile freight services and SkaiCraft, a personal and commuter air mobility system.
One of the key features of Skai is that it can take off and land at a large enough open area like parking lots or football fields, making the mobility systems a viable option for commuters.
Data from the United Nations shows that 60 percent of the world’s population will move to cities by 2030—up from 50 percent today—naturally overwhelming public transportation systems that are already operating beyond full capacity. Hence, commuting will get more challenging before it gets easy. Already Boston has one of the longest commute times — an average of 40 minutes each way.
To that end, Skai’s goal of transforming mobility seems imperative. “Our goal is to change mass transportation,” said Morrison. “We want to be able to allow anyone to fly in our aircraft.”
Loz: If it comes off, that would be a huge step into the future.
That’s our goal, as odd as it sounds.
Check out Skai’s promotional video below for a closer look at the aircraft.