Hydrogen-electric aviation pioneer ZeroAvia has unveiled what it claims to be Europe’s first landside-to-airside hydrogen airport pipeline. The 100m-long hydrogen pipeline runs alongside ZeroAvia’s hangar at Cotswold Airport in the UK and will be utilised together with an electrolyser and mobile refueller to use low-carbon hydrogen for its test flight programme. ZeroAvia’s zero-emission powertrains use hydrogen fuel in a fuel cell to create a chemical reaction that produces electricity, which then powers electric motors that spin the propellers, while producing no emissions other than water. The company says the pipeline will help demonstrate and explore the operational safety case for hydrogen pipelines and refuelling infrastructure at airports. ZeroAvia is to also collaborate with strategic investor Shell, who will design and build two commercial-scale mobile refuellers for use at ZeroAvia’s R&D site in Hollister, California. Earlier this month it announced a partnership with ZEV Station to develop hydrogen hubs at airports throughout California and took delivery at Hollister of its second twin-engine 19-seat Dornier 228 aircraft.
Support for the UK pipeline has come from the Department for Transport and the Connected Places Catapult as part of the Zero Emission Flight Infrastructure programme to enable airports and airfields to prepare for the future of zero-emission operations. In addition to the commercial-scale mobile refueller project, Shell will provide compressed, low-carbon hydrogen supply to the Hollister facility, as well as other locations in the western United States. This will support the development of ZeroAvia’s flight testing programme in the US following the arrival of the second Dornier 228 and advance the company’s Hydrogen Airport Refueling Ecosystem (HARE) on a larger scale.
It said the projects will enable the company to further explore the connection between aircraft refuelling and landside hydrogen use cases, such as road transport. It is operating multiple hydrogen fuel cell road vehicles as part of the Cotswold and Hollister operations, which are aimed at demonstrating the potential for airports to act as hydrogen hubs for onward transport and ground operations.
“These milestone announcements represent significant hydrogen infrastructure advancement for ZeroAvia and the industry,” said Arnab Chatterjee, VP Infrastructure, ZeroAvia. “Hydrogen-electric is the only practical, holistic and economically attractive solution to aviation’s growing climate change impact. Fuel provision needs to be economical and convenient for airlines to achieve operational cost benefits and ZeroAvia is leading these pioneering infrastructure developments together with leading partners like Shell.”
Responded Oliver Bishop, General Manager, Hydrogen at Shell: “We believe ZeroAvia’s technology is a viable option, and this agreement will allow us to demonstrate successful provision of low-carbon hydrogen supply while supporting development of codes, standards and refuelling protocols for hydrogen-powered aviation.”
ZeroAvia reports recent positive predictions in the US relating to a falling price trajectory of hydrogen fuel alongside state-led activity for establishing ‘H2 Hubs’ as the US Department of Energy prepares to receive bids from across the US.
The company says it will begin flight testing of its ZA600 hydrogen-electric powertrain this summer using its two Dornier 228 testbed aircraft, first in the UK and then later replicating this work on the US-based demonstrator that is now being retrofitted. The development of the 600kW powertrain is part of Project HyFlyer II that is aiming to deliver a fully certified powertrain for aircraft up to 19 seats by 2024. The project is supported by the UK’s energy ministry (BEIS), the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) and Innovate UK through the ATI programme. ZeroAvia has secured experimental certificates for its prototype aircraft from the FAA and UK CAA.
Graphic: An example of ZeroAvia’s hydrogen airport refuelling ecosystem (HARE) – from renewable hydrogen production to zero-emission flight