Hydrogen is in the crosshairs of aviation in its quest for the zero emissions of the future, with Airbus announcing its ZeroE initiative to put hydrogen jets into production by 2035. But it’s far, and the he accelerator is in a hurry for fuel cell planes were in commercial operation long before.

Los Angeles-based startup Universal Hydrogen has embarked on a project to develop an adaptable hydrogen system for existing airliners, and will test it with a De Havilland Canada DHC8-Q300 40 places, commonly called the Dash-8, which will become the The world’s largest hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft.

While Airbus plans to burn hydrogen as a combustion fuel in modified gas turbines, Universal is developing a 100% electric fuel cell powertrain with Magnix electric motors to power the Dash-8’s two turboprop engines.

Magnix brings some experience, having powered the world’s largest electric aircraft earlier this year – a modernized nine-seater Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, which made its maiden flight in May.

Universal’s hydrogen-powered Dash-8 will use a pair of two-megawatt Magnix electric motors, delivering slightly more horsepower than the standard aircraft’s pair of Pratt & Whitney 1,860 kW turboprop engines. The hydrogen will act like a battery, producing electricity as it passes through the aircraft’s fuel cells.

According to AINOnline, the 56-seat capacity of the standard aircraft is reduced to 40 due to the large hydrogen modules that will replace the last rows of seats.

The range will be approximately 740 km plus the hydrogen gas reserve, which means that the hydrogen-powered Dash-8 could serve approximately 75% of the Dash-8’s current flight paths, and once a liquid hydrogen system. , these numbers are expected to increase to 1,020 km. and 95%. The refueling will be operated by standard loading equipment or even forklifts; Universal treats hydrogen as dry cargo to be loaded and unloaded in 2m and 0.9m diameter modules.

Universal believes that you can put this project into commercial service from 2024, with passenger prices not exceeding the regular routes of the Dash-8 despite limited seats and new fuel.

The company says there are approximately 2,200 compatible Dash-8 aircraft in operation around the world that could be upgraded, and that it is working on developing a system that can be integrated into new aircraft designs.

The high energy density of hydrogen fuel, along with the fact that there are many different ways to produce it, make it much more suitable for weight-sensitive aviation use than lithium batteries. As part of this initiative, Universal will have to test the safety of a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain, including drop, burst and vent tests on fuel modules – this should address criticism that the hydrogen is inherently more dangerous than jet fuel.

More information: Universal hydrogenMagnix