Universal Hydrogen co-founder and its CEO, Paul Eremenko, declared a new era in aviation with the modified Dash-8 aircraft. Dash-8 with hydrogen fuel cell propulsion just made its maiden test flight in Washington. The test which lasted for 15 minutes showed that hydrogen could be useful for shorter flights. If technical and regulatory progress makes it possible for mainstream use then it could hold as an environment friendly option. Dash-8s can transport up to 50 passengers on shorter trips. However, this modified version carried just two pilots, an engineer, and tech onboard., It used an electric motor and hydrogen fuel cell supplied by two other startups.
Universal Hydrogen’s wishes to convert regional aircrafts into hydrogen fuel cell propulsion by 2025. The company already is gaining with a swiftly growing order book of 247 aircraft modifications from 16 customers worldwide. This will total a $1 billion covering the conversions backlog and around $2 billion in fuel services for the first ten years.
The US Connect Airlines and the European Amelia, witnessed the test flight. American Connect Airlines has committed to being North America’s first zero-emission airline. It has planned to convert 75 ATR 72-600 regional airplanes to hydrogen powertrains along with Universal Hydrogen. It does have purchase rights for 25 additional aircraft conversions. Deliveries will begin in 2025.
The company’s powertrain does not use a battery hence the fuel cells drive the electric motor directly, as it drastically reduces cost. The fuel cell turns hydrogen into electricity and water, an emission-free power generation that CEO Eremenko believes represents the future of aviation. The modified interior contained two sets of electronics and sensors, and a large double hydrogen tank section with 30 kg of fuel. The flight showed the viability of hydrogen as a fuel for short trip passenger aircraft. The aviation industry is currently responsible for about 2.5% of global emissions and is predicted to grow by 4% annually.
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