Hydrogen electric aircraft completes test flight of largest-ever zero-emission plane in UK

ZeroAvia, a developer of hydrogen electric aircrafts, flew a test flight this week to prove that it is the largest aircraft ever powered by zero-emission fuel.

A Dornier 228 twin engine aircraft was retrofitted with a prototype hydrogen electric powertrain on one of its wings. The 10-minute flight took place at Cotswold Airport, Gloucestershire, in west England.

Shell, United Airlines, and American Airlines invested in the startup. The company said that the flight went as planned with the largest hydrogen engine it had ever tested. It has also flown numerous tests of a prototype six-seater over the years.

The technology doesn’t emit any carbon during flight. Anglo-US says it could be a greener option to fossil-fuelled aircrafts. It also produces fewer greenhouse gases than sustainable aviation fuels.

This announcement comes after a Rolls-Royce and easyJet test firing of a hydrogen-powered aircraft engine late last year. Airbus followed up with the news that it is developing its own hydrogen-powered wide-body, jumbo jet with ArianeGroup. It is expected that testing will be completed within a few years.

Airbus is considering using a hydrogen-powered engine to power a zero emission aircraft. The A380 MSN1 flight test plane for new hydrogen technologies, currently being modified to transport liquid hydrogen tanks with their associated distribution system.

Supported by a petrol stock engine at its right wing, the 19-seater was powered by a ZeroAvia hydrogen electric powertrain. It used two fuel cell stacks and included lithium-ion batteries to provide peak power support during takeoff and additional redundancy for safety testing.

The company tested hydrogen tanks and fuel cells power generation systems inside the cabin. However, the company plans to add external storage in its commercial plans.

ZeroAvia stated that it hopes to have a certified configuration ready for submission for certification in 2015. ZeroAvia is also developing a larger powertrain to drive the 90-seater aircraft it plans to deliver on commercial routes by 2025.

Initially, it is aiming for a 300-mile range of aircraft with nine to 19 seats by 2025. By 2027, it will increase to 700 miles in aircraft with 40 to 80 seats by 2027.

The company stated that 1,500 engines have been ordered in advance, from American Airlines and United Airlines. It also has partnerships agreements with seven aircraft producers, a variety of green hydrogen producers, and airports such as Rotterdam in the Netherlands or Edmonton International in Canada.

Val Miftakhov, founder and chief executive, said that the test flight was a “major moment” not only for ZeroAvia but for the entire aviation industry. It showed that zero-emission commercial flights are still a few years away.

He stated that the flight showed “just how scalable technology is” and highlighted the rapid advancement of zero-emission propulsion.

An electrolyzer, operated by the European Marine Energy Centre, produced hydrogen gas at the airport for the powertrain.