It has been a good week for hydrogen. After the attention gained from National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day, hydrogen fuel cell technology received an unexpected PR boost on Thursday when Kanye West brought up the idea of hydrogen-powered planes with President Donald Trump.

During a White House lunch that was filmed by the media, the superstar rapper suggested that President Trump should replace the presidential airplane, a Boeing 747, with a hydrogen (H2)-powered aircraft.

West also touched on social issues, gang violence, North Korea, politics and mental health in a surreal exchange that left a lot of people asking what a hydrogen plane was.

This interest can only be good for H2 and its potential for zero-emissions air travel.

At the moment, however, there is no hydrogen-powered plane in commercial operation.

H2-powered cars might be an increasing trend, especially in California, and H2 is also used to send NASA rockets into space.

Germany also rolled out the world’s first H2-powered train last month, but hydrogen planes are still years from becoming a commercial reality.

West showed the President pictures on his iPhone of a design concept for a H2-powered plane which he called iPlane 1.

“This is what our President should be flying in,” West said to the President.

“If he don’t look good, we don’t look good. This is our president. He has to be the freshest, the flyest.

“This right here is the iPlane 1. It’s a hydrogen-powered airplane, and this is what our President should be flying in. We’re going to have Apple, an American company, work on this plane.”

The image is a reportedly a concept design by Shabtai Hirshberg while he was a student at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.

“We’ll get rid of Air Force One,” President Trump said.

HES Energy Systems are trying to get hydrogen passenger plans off the ground and earlier this month announced plans for the world’s first regional hydrogen-electric passenger aircraft, known as Element One. A prototype hydrogen aircraft is set to launch in 2025. Element One is designed to fly four passengers for 500km to 5000km depending on whether hydrogen is stored in gaseous or liquid form.

Element One

Source: HES Energy Systems

“It’s now possible to break past the endurance limits of battery-electric flight using HES’ ultra-light hydrogen energy storage in a distributed propulsion arrangement,” said Taras Wankewycz, founder of HES.

“Element One’s design paves the way for renewable hydrogen as a long-range fuel for electric aviation.” 

Hydrogen-powered cars are a growing trend in some areas of the world where there are refuelling stations.

H2 trains and cars are equipped with fuel cells that produce electricity through a combination of hydrogen and oxygen, a process that leaves steam and water as the only emissions.

The advantages of H2-powered cars and trains over internal combustion engines and battery-electric motors include emissions, range and charging time.

These benefits were celebrated during National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day on 8th October, a date chosen for the atomic weight of hydrogen (1.008).

In the same week, authors of the landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommended urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to reach a target of global warming. It said there is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, otherwise drought, floods and extreme heat will worsen.

World net emissions of carbon dioxide will need to be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and be zero by around 2050 if global warming is to be kept at 1.5C.

With that ambitious target in mind, West’s chat with President Trump about the possibility of hydrogen-powered planes was especially welcome.