Successful Test Flight of the Largest Hydrogen-Powered Plane to Date

Successful Test Flight of the Largest Hydrogen-Powered Plane to Date
Courtesy ZeroAvia

As a part of the technology test, ZeroAvia's hydrogen fuel cell-powered 19-passenger aircraft made a successful flight of 10 minutes to prove that the technology was feasible.

In a major milestone for the future of low-carbon aviation, ZeroAvia topped its 10-minute test flight with hydrogen fuel cells on Friday, giving it a big boost for the future. Hydrogen is currently being used in the largest aircraft that has flown with a hydrogen fuel cell, a 19-seater.

A modified Dornier 228 was powered by a hybrid propulsion system, which combined hydrogen fuel cells and batteries, which were used to power the left engine of the plane. During the operation of the right engine, conventional aircraft fuel was used. In fact, the aircraft is part of a project called HyFlyer II, which is also being developed by the company.

“This is putting us straight on the path to commercial launches,” said Val Miftakhov, the CEO and founder of ZeroAvia, in the wake of the successful flight. “This first flight shows just how scalable our technology is and highlights the rapid progress of zero-emission propulsion.”

There is a possibility that hydrogen fuel cells may be the key to a sustainable aviation industry that has very low carbon emissions, or even zero emissions. As far as Embraer and Airbus are concerned, both are planning to have hydrogen-fueled aircraft on the market by the year 2035.

Miftakhov says ZeroAvia has received 1,500 preorders for its hydrogen fuel-cell systems, according to Rich Report. A number of test flights have been conducted by the company for several years, with varying degrees of success. As a result of the delay, last week's test flight had been postponed from the summer of 2022 to this week. 

Courtesy ZeroAvia

A permit was obtained from the UK's aviation authorities back in December, which allowed the company to make a test flight with the aircraft. Cotswold Airport in Gloucestershire, UK officiated the takeoff of the modified Dornier 228 aircraft. As a result, the seats were taken out in order to make room for the fuel-cell propulsion system and the storage tanks.

There was about 50 percent of the engine's power supplied by the batteries during the test flight, while the other 50 percent was supplied by the fuel cell system.

In 2025, Miftakhov said, the company will launch its 600kW powertrain commercially. He did not specify what type of aircraft would be used for the first system, but he did mention that it will have 10 to 20 seats and a range of 300 miles as well.

Courtesy ZeroAvia

As a result of the weight of the fuel cells, hydrogen is limited for aviation, despite its positive attributes. The aircraft will initially be used as a regional aircraft with a smaller range. A version of the ZeroAvia propulsion system is also being developed for larger aircraft, capable of carrying 90 passengers, with a range of 700 miles, with a power output of 2-5 megawatts.

In the race for hydrogen, Zero Avia has some competition. A US company called Universal Hydrogen is reportedly planning to test its hydrogen fuel-cell system on a 50-seat aircraft early in the new year on the basis of a 50-seat aircraft.

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