Largest hydrogen-electric plane yet has first test flight

20 Jan 2023

British-American firm ZeroAvia has successfully flown the largest aircraft yet to be fitted with a zero-emission hydrogen-electric engine – and says it is on track to put the technology into commercial use by 2025.

A 19-seat Dornier 228 aircraft that has been specially converted to run on a full-size prototype hydrogen fuel cell powertrain completed a 10-minute test flight at Cotswold Airport in Gloucestershire. The motor featured two fuel cell stacks, with lithium-ion battery packs added to provide peak power during take-off.

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The twin-engine machine featured ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-electric engine on its left wing, with a Honeywell TPE-331 stock engine on the right wing. Because the aircraft was in a testbed configuration the hydrogen tanks and fuel cell power generator were housed inside the cabin.

ZeroAvia said that all systems performed “as expected” in the test, which was the largest it has staged to date and is a key milestone in the company’s goal to finalising the plane’s technical configuration for certification later this year.

The flight was part of the HyFlyer 2 project, which is backed by the UK government’s ATI programme and has the goal to develop a zero-emission 600kW powertrain that can be used for aircraft with nine to 19 seats.

The Dornier 228 will be used for a series of further tests in the coming months, with the aim to have the powertrain ready for commercial flights by 2025.

Val Miftakhov, ZeroAvia’s founder and boss, said: “The first flight of our 19-seat aircraft shows just how scalable our technology is and highlights the real progress of zero-emission propulsion.”

ZeroAvia has previously staged test flights with a six-seat prototype, using a Piper Malibu fitted with a 250kW hydrogen fuel cell powertrain.

ZeroAvia is also working on a 2-5 MW powertrain programme to develop a fuel cell system that can be used for larger aircraft with up to 90 seats.


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