ZeroAvia, a British aviation company, successfully flew the world’s largest hydrogen-electric aircraft on Friday, in a significant step forward for sustainable aviation. The 19-seat, twin-engine Dornier 228 plane, fitted with a prototype hydrogen-electric powertrain, completed a 10-minute flight from Cotswold Airport in the UK as part of the HyFlyer II project.
The HyFlyer II project is a government-funded research and development program that aims to make small passenger planes more environmentally friendly. The powertrain of the aircraft was fueled using compressed gaseous hydrogen that was produced on-site using an electrolyzer. The testing configuration included two fuel-cell stacks and lithium-ion battery packs housed in the cabin for the test flight, but for commercial use, they would be moved to external storage to make room for seating. Additionally, the hydrogen-electric powertrain was paired with a Honeywell TPE-331 stock engine on the right wing for extra power during takeoff and safety-related redundancy.
ZeroAvia, the company behind the successful test flight, is on track to certify the technology this year, with plans for commercial routes by 2025. The company is also working on a 2-5 MW powertrain program that will scale the technology for aircraft up to 90 seats, with the goal of expanding into narrow-body planes in the next decade. Furthermore, the company has received investment from Amazon as part of its Climate Pledge Fund.
The successful flight of the world’s largest hydrogen-electric aircraft marks a significant milestone in the quest for sustainable aviation. Hydrogen-electric propulsion offers a cleaner and more efficient alternative to traditional jet fuel, and it is a promising solution to the environmental impact of air travel. With ZeroAvia on track to certify the technology and plans for commercial routes in the near future, the future of sustainable aviation is looking bright.