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JAL Embraces Hydrogen-Electric Future: Pioneering Partnerships Set to Transform Regional Air Travel

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JAL's Goal
JAL Embraces Hydrogen-Electric Future Photo Credit:press.jal.co.jp

Japan Airlines (JAL) is steering into the future of aviation, embracing hydrogen-electric propulsion. The airline, with its maintenance arm JAL Engineering Co. (JALEC), is aligning with three trailblazing startups: H2Fly, Universal Hydrogen, and ZeroAvia. Their goal? Retrofitting regional aircraft with zero-emission powertrains.

Into the specifics. H2Fly, based in Stuttgart, Germany, has made strides with its HY4 testbed aircraft, the first to fly on liquid hydrogen. Collaborating with Deutsche Aircraft, they’re eyeing a 2025 flight for a 40-seat D328 turboprop, revamped with hydrogen-electric propulsion.

Universal Hydrogen (UH2), meanwhile, is advancing with a Dash 8-300 testbed, substituting one turboprop with a megawatt-class hydrogen-electric powertrain. Their sights are set on an ATR 72 regional turboprop conversion, aiming for a 2026 commercial launch. UH2 is also developing a unique hydrogen-supply system using modular canisters, seamlessly integrated into aircraft. Their joint study with JAL, initiated in March, focuses on green hydrogen supply logistics in Japan.

Now, onto ZeroAvia. They’ve successfully tested a 19-seat Dornier 228, replacing a turboprop with a fuel-cell powertrain. Their next big thing? The ZA2000 powertrain, targeting 40-90-seat regional turboprops, with a 2027 service entry plan.

JAL’s partnership with these companies is a strategic move. They’re not just providing input on technical design and development but also diving deep into Japan’s hydrogen value chain. This collaboration is a balancing act between innovation and practicality, ensuring reliability and maintainability in regional operations.


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H2Fly’s vision encompasses a future where 40-passenger aircraft can cover 2,000 kilometers on hydrogen power. Universal Hydrogen’s strategy involves a flexible, scalable approach, leveraging modular capsules for hydrogen transport. And ZeroAvia? They’re ambitiously aiming for a 300-mile range in smaller aircraft by 2025, expanding to 700 miles in larger models by 2027.

JAL’s commitment to net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 is the driving force here. By engaging with these diverse partners, each with unique strengths, JAL is contributing to the dawn of zero-emission commercial flights. This venture is more than a technical challenge; it’s about ensuring safety, economic viability, and sustainable aviation in the long run.


Sunita Somvanshi

With over two decades of dedicated service in the state environmental ministry, this seasoned professional has cultivated a discerning perspective on the intricate interplay between environmental considerations and diverse industries. Sunita is armed with a keen eye for pivotal details, her extensive experience uniquely positions her to offer insightful commentary on topics ranging from business sustainability and global trade's environmental impact to fostering partnerships, optimizing freight and transport for ecological efficiency, and delving into the realms of thermal management, logistics, carbon credits, and energy transition. Through her writing, she not only imparts valuable knowledge but also provides a nuanced understanding of how businesses can harmonize with environmental imperatives, making her a crucial voice in the discourse on sustainable practices and the future of industry.

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