Hydrogen-powered plane deals take off
July 23, 2021 - Universal Hydrogen and MagniX have developed conversion kits that include hydrogen fuel cells and electric powertrains to turn De Havilland Canada Dash 8s into zero-emissions airliners.
Paul Eremenko, a former Airbus and Raytheon Technologies executive, has co-founded Los Angeles-based Universal Hydrogen intending to bring green hydrogen-fuel technology to regional airliners within three years.
Owing to surging demand for clean energy, Eremenko predicts Universal’s technology will take off. He estimates annual revenue could hit $1 billion by 2030 and up to $100 billion by 2040.
“It is very energy dense and is completely clean,” Eremenko says of hydrogen fuel. The by-product, he adds, is just water.
Unlike lithium-ion batteries, hydrogen fuel’s high energy density is sufficient for airliner applications, he adds.
Eremenko plans to “get the market going” by developing a kit to retrofit Dash 8-Q300 systems. The kit includes a fuel cell and twin, two-megawatt Magnix electric motors to replace conventional turboprops built by Pratt & Whitney. Once fitted, the Dash-8 will become the world’s largest hydrogen aircraft.
Universal’s hydrogen supply system will use two or three two-metre-long (seven-feet) modules, each carrying two hydrogen-storage capsules holding either gaseous or liquid hydrogen.
“For the Dash 8-300 with the gaseous capsules, we get 400nm range (740km). With the liquid hydrogen capsules, we get 550nm (925km),” Eremenko says.
The modules will replace the last few rows of seats, bringing capacity down from 50 to 40 passengers. Despite the loss of seats, the cost advantage of hydrogen fuel cells and maintenance suggest “at least a 25% improvement,” Eremenko says.
On July 13, Reuters reported that Universal had signed letters of intent with Spain’s Air Nostrum for 11 aircraft, Ravn Alaska for five aircraft, and Icelandair Group for an unspecified number of planes.
- Universal Hydrogen in zero-carbon plane deals with Icelandair, others (Reuters)
- Eremenko launches hydrogen supply company with plan for hydrogen-fueled Dash 8s (FlightGlobal)
- MagniX family of complete electric propulsion units (MagniX)
- Startup Tackles Infrastructure Barrier To Decarbonizing With Hydrogen (Aviation Week & Space Technology)