MIAMI – ZeroAvia’s Piper M-class six-seater H2-fueled electric passenger aircraft sailed over England, successfully completing its maiden flight at the end of September.
This was a big move forward in the field of commercial aviation with zero emissions. To combine H2 and oxygen for electricity output, the company retrofitted one of its Piper M-class hydrogen fuel passenger aircraft. The aircraft taxied, took off, completed a full pattern circuit flight during the maiden voyage, and landed.
The maiden voyage of the commercial-grade, hydrogen fuel cell-powered aircraft was, according to the ZeroAvia, a “world first.” There are, however, other H2 fueled aircraft capable of hosting passenger flights.
A Commercially-viable, Zero-emission Aircraft
According to hydrogenfuelnews.com, a four-seater HY4 aircraft completed its maiden flight in 2016 at Stuttgart Airport (STR) in Germany. The HY4 was developed by researchers from the German Aerospace Center in partnership with industry and research partners.
This new hydrogen fuel passenger plane flight was performed at Cranfield Airport (XUD) in England. At XUD, situated 50 miles north of London and owned by Cranfield University, ZeroAvia has a research and development facility.
ZeroAvia CEO Val Miftakhov said, “While some experimental aircraft have flown using hydrogen fuel cells as a power source, the size of this commercially available aircraft shows that paying passengers could be boarding a truly zero-emission flight very soon.”
An Industry-wide Goal
In September of this year, Airbus also said it wanted its H2-fueled passenger aircraft to operate by 2035. Concerning the incursion of the manufacturer into H2 technology, Guillaume Faury, Airbus CEO, said that the three distinct design concepts for the ZEROe aircraft represented a historical moment for the commercial aviation industry.
The CEO added that the use of hydrogen aircraft technology has the ability to dramatically reduce the climate effect of aviation. According to the company’s website, ZeroAvia enables zero-emission air travel at scale, starting with 500-mile short-haul trips, at half of today’s cost.
The HyFlyer Program
With project partners such as the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) and Intelligent Energy, ZeroAvia is the leader in the HyFlyer program. The HyFlyer initiative is sponsored by the British government and EMEC described it as seeking “to decarbonize small passenger aircraft in the medium range by demonstrating powertrain technology to replace conventional piston engines in propeller aircraft.”
The next step in the HyFlyer project would have ZeroAvia working to complete a longer flight, flying between 250 and 300 miles from the Orkney Islands. The archipelago is situated off the north coast of mainland Scotland. Before the end of the year, the aim is to complete said journey.
Curbing CO2 Emissions by 2050
At the start of 2020, aviation worldwide was on track to surpass 1 gigaton of CO2 emissions, adding up to 10% of the total human climate impact. While the halt in airline travel during the COVID-19 crisis has decreased the industry’s emissions by 30%, experts expect the industry to rebound to and surpass those levels once the pandemic has passed.
Aviation accounts for over 12% of total transportation emissions. Released at high altitudes, aviation emissions have 2–4x the impact of comparable ground source emissions. Left unchecked, airline traffic is on course to account for 25% of global CO2 emissions by 2050.
Featured image: ZeroAvia first hydrogen-electric flight. Photo: insidedeevs.com