ZeroAvia Flies Hydrogen-Electric Dornier 228

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ZeroAvia’s 19-seat Dornier 228 test bed aircraft has successfully completed its first flight using the company’s prototype hydrogen-electric powertrain. The 10-minute test flight took place at Cotswold Airport in Gloucestershire, U.K., with the company noting that all systems performed as expected. The Dornier 228 test bed is outfitted with the stock Honeywell TPE-331 engine on its right wing and the 600-kW hydrogen-electric powertrain on its left wing.

“This is a major moment, not just for ZeroAvia, but for the aviation industry as a whole, as it shows that true zero-emission commercial flight is only a few years away,” said ZeroAvia founder and CEO Val Miftakhov. “The first flight of our 19-seat aircraft shows just how scalable our technology is and highlights the rapid progress of zero-emission propulsion.”

As previously reported by AVweb, the ZeroAvia got its permit to fly the modified Dornier 228 from the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) last month. The aircraft is part of ZeroAvia’s U.K.-government-backed HyFlyer II project, which is developing a 600-kW hydrogen-electric powertrain for 9- to 19-seat aircraft. The company says it is aiming to have the engine configuration finalized and submitted for certification later this year.

Video: ZeroAvia
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Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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25 COMMENTS

      • It’s a mystery to me too. Maybe it’s the “if men were meant to fly they’d have wings” syndrome. I am excited to read about developments in alternate methods of propulsion; not just low carbon but ANY powerplant that reflects a drive to innovate and find an alternative to my Mattituck O-360.
        It’s especially interesting to read about hybrid research. I am doubtful that traction battery systems will work out for aircraft because resolution of the energy density/weight issue doesn’t look promising.
        Congratulations to the innovators!

      • Brian, probably because this is not an “advance” in aviation nor is it the best testbed for new propulsion systems. Beyond that, the use of a non-commodity fuel with no naturally occuring geological deposits of pure Hydrogen on the Earth. That means the energy of production of the fuel will exceed the energy of fuel that’s created.

        • Why the concern over the cost (in terms of power) required to produce the hydrogen? If (and yes, that’s a big if) ‘clean’ power is available, why not use it to produce a viable fuel?

          Hydro, wind, and excited atoms are all potential sources of energy, but none are exactly viable for aircraft propulsion.

          • Hydrogen is not a fuel; the energy required to break bonds during the production of H2 is never recoved 100% during it’s use. Basically just think of it as a leaky battery.

          • If it burns, it’s a fuel. And again, why the concern over efficiency of production? Your engine doesn’t care.

      • If the premise of needing to reduce CO2 emissions is real, it’s easy to get excited about new technology. If the hype is just a way to disrupt industries and world economies to siphon off some extra wealth into the pockets of a few actors like John Kerry then the, poor performance of the prototypes (generally speaking) are amusing at best.

      • Brian S, I also have wondered why so many readers are down on attempts at new propulsion technology. In the case of the first commenter especially, but others as well, I’ve concluded that they’ve conflated attempts at new propulsion technology with their religion and related culture war issues.

      • Just because, until now, no other form of propulsion has demonstrated, in the real world, the capabilities of the fuels used until now. Let’s the science and the engineers first discovery those capabilities (and I mean all of them) in some other form of propulsion (namely electricity) and use them in a way equivalent of the nowadays fuels and we soon will see some different kind of comments. That’s is the simple answer.

      • After X amount of minutes have passed and the HFC side runs out of H2/battery power.

        As I have stated before HFC is superior to electric/battery for aviation so I do support that.

        Electric motors are superior in many ways to IC engines so I support that too.

        What I’m against is the premise that we should stop using inexpensive and readily available proven fossil fuels to power a green agenda at taxpayer expense.

    • I’m pretty certain that it sounds like a propeller. For any prop-driven aircraft whether a Cessna Skyhawk or a Dornier 228, the vast majority of the fly-by noise that you hear is the propeller(s), and the “signature” is about blade counts, RPM and so on. If the new engine uses the same prop as the original (which it looks like in the picture) at the same RPM, then it will sound pretty much the same.

  1. The need to reduce emissions is real (at least I think most people agree on this), but as one commenter pointed out, the energy expended to produce that hydrogen can be high (not sure I can buy his claim that it is twice as much, but I haven’t done the research). But those plants can eventually be run by zero emission energy such as solar/wind/geo/hydro, making it truly zero emission. However, in the end it comes down to cost to the consumer. If that cost of the hydrogen is 4 times JetA the econonmics won’t work. People are getting more and more “greener” and willing to pay more to be green, but will they pay twice the ticket price to be “green”? Doubt it. Then there is the cost of infrastructure, etc. And with an airplane carrying hundreds of lbs of compressed H2, the crashworthiness rules will need to be updated for the aircraft to safely carry it… You can see the myriad of issues needed to be addressed before H2-powered aircraft in commercial service comes to fruition. They may be able to Certify the engine within the decade, but I will guess it will take a whole new airplane design to use it. Maybe in the 2030s you’ll see one but I doubt it.

    • “But those plants can eventually be run by zero emission energy such as solar/wind/geo/hydro, making it truly zero emission.”

      While true,
      But taking away that zero emission energy from the grid for H2 production means that an equal amount of oil/gas electricity has to take it’s place! Since you cannot get more energy out of H2 than it takes generting that product; it’s a net loss as far as renewable power is concerned. Q.E.D.

      • Not necessarily. The grid doesn’t work
        A major challenge of running the grid is keeping the supply matched to the load. There is no storage array so the available (almost) “free” energy ought be be doing something useful while the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. Like powering a gravity battery or performing hydrolysis.

        Fossil powered standby plants will have a valid place in the grid for a long time to come. Same for ICE.

        If the carbon fuel price becomes extremely prohibitive in our lifetime, and let’s face it, anything can happen… I’d be grateful that the renewable effort was made all these years. If not you, perhaps your descendants. At least we as a society wouldn’t have had both our thumbs you know where during “the good old days”.

  2. It is not necessarily that the AvWeb audience, especially those with decades of experience and knowledge of idiotic unachievable promises and claims are against new power sources. It is all the bogus, nonsense hype about development timing, costs, availability, ignoring regulatory hurdles, and the gullibility of press to repeatedly promote mostly nonsense regarding practicality, and economics. That same audience has long agreed that IC aviation powerplants are archaic as compared with modern automotive ones, but have long since given up the hope of modernization, and don’t even go there anymore.

    • Exactly. Those who see the downsides of the various alternatives tend to emphasize them in postings precisely because the promoters ignore those downsides so assiduously.

      In the aviation field, what we are searching for is a way to package energy with a combination of energy density, weight, safety and cost that reasonably replaces liquid hydrocarbon fuel in an aircraft. When any one of these is totally ignored, it needs to be pointed out.

  3. Can someone please explain to me how the hydrogen is used to generate the electricity to drive the generator and charge the batteries?? I don’t have a clue as to how this mechanism is supposed to work. Also, how and in what state is the hydrogen stored? As a compressed gas? If so the containment must be very heavy and it’s a bomb. Gaseous H2 liquifies at -423 deg. I know there are some hydrogen powered cars–is this what they are using in the airplane? That would also require some very heavy containment vessels I would think. Since hydrogen does not exist in the free state in nature, how much energy and what process is required to free the hydrogen? Inquiring minds would like to know.

    • “Can someone please explain to me how the hydrogen is used to generate the electricity to drive the generator and charge the batteries??”

      Fuel cells, currently with lithium batteries for backup and extra peak power.

      “Also, how and in what state is the hydrogen stored? As a compressed gas? If so the containment must be very heavy and it’s a bomb.”

      For the ZA600 line, compressed hydrogen (CGH2) is being used. CGH2 does not scale up well to larger/longer haul uses, where cryogenic liquid H2 (LH2) tanks are planned.

      “That would also require some very heavy containment vessels I would think.”

      Carbon fibre (hey, they’re British) composite tanks for either CGH2 or LH2 are being developed and tested. Such technology is already being used in the space industry for cryogenic fuel handling.

      “Since hydrogen does not exist in the free state in nature, how much energy and what process is required to free the hydrogen?”

      ZA anticipates locally produced H2 from electrolysis using renewable power.

      See compositesworld.com/articles/zeroavia-advances-to-certify-za600-in-2025-launch-za2000-with-liquid-hydrogen-in-2027 for more info.

  4. A major challenge of running the grid is keeping the supply matched to the load. There is no storage array so the available (almost) “free” energy ought be be doing something useful while the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. Like powering a gravity battery or performing hydrolysis.

    Fossil powered standby plants will have a valid place in the grid for a long time to come. Same for ICE.

    If the carbon fuel price becomes extremely prohibitive in our lifetime, and let’s face it, anything can happen… I’d be grateful that the renewable effort was made all these years. If not you, perhaps your descendants. At least we as a society wouldn’t have had both our thumbs you know where during “the good old days”.