Hydrogen-Electric Propulsion Pushing Into Short-Haul Air Transportation With Deals
January 24, 2022
Proponents of hydrogen-electric propulsion are pushing deeper into short-haul air transportation with deals that could see the conversion of large turboprops and regional jets and the first zero-emissions commercial passenger flights with smaller aircraft as soon as 2024.
U.S./UK startup ZeroAvia is developing a 600-kW gaseous-hydrogen fuel-cell system for 19-passenger aircraft and plans to convert two Dornier 228s into test aircraft. Market entry is planned for 2024.
The startup has also announced an agreement with Alaska Air Group to develop a hydrogen-electric powertrain for the 76-seat De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 and with Irish cargo airline operator ASL Aviation Holdings to convert ATR 72 freighters, Another with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ RJ Aviation (MHIRJ) division will evaluate the conversion of the Bombardier-built CRJ regional jet family. United Airlines plans to convert its CRJ-550s.
A third agreement, with Royal Schiphol Group, is planned to lead to zero-emissions commercial flights between Rotterdam The Hague Airport and London with a 19-seat aircraft in 2024.
Founded in 2020, Universal Hydrogen is developing a distribution network that connects green hydrogen production to fuel-cell-powered aircraft using modular capsules that are transported using the existing intermodal container freight network.
The startup has signed letters of intent with Icelandair Group, Air Nostrum, Ravn Alaska and Irish cargo airline operator ASL Aviation Holdings to retrofit ATR 72 and De Havilland Canada Dash 8 regional turboprops and freighters with hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion systems.
Universal Hydrogen plans to begin experimental flights in 2023, aiming for supplemental type certification and entry into service by 2025.
Founded in 2014 as an outgrowth of a partnership between German aerospace center DLR and the University of ULM, H2Fly has flight-tested hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion using the four-seat HY4, most recently as part of the European Union-funded Mahepa research project to develop a modular hybrid-electric propulsion architecture.
The startup has also partnered with Deutsche Aircraft to demonstrate a zero-emission, fuel-cell-powered version of the 328eco regional turboprop.
Cranfield Aerospace Solutions
Project Fresson, Cranfield Aerospace Solutions’ zero-carbon aviation initiative, is being supported by the UK government with a £10.3 million ($14.3 million) grant via the Aerospace Technology Institute. Cranfield Aerospace Solutions is working with Ricardo UK on fuel cell system development and Innovatus Technologies on the hydrogen fuel tanks.
The project’s goal is to have a certified system on the market for the Islander in 2025, both as a retrofit and in a new model of the aircraft from Britten-Norman. A demonstrator is planned to fly in 2023 under the funded Phase 1 of Project Fresson. Planned later phases would develop hydrogen-powered 19-seat and 75-seat regional aircraft.