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[2023-05-17 ~ ]

The aircraft revolution is coming

Hydrogen Fuel Engine Replacement Kits Having Great Potential in the Regional Aircraft Market
Most of the current aircraft and engine manufacturers are developing new energy technologies to achieve carbon reduction goals, and most of them will consider starting from existing resource planning such as existing product lines and technologies to optimize benefits. However, due to the existing barriers, it is difficult to carry out quickly. The establishment of a start-up company has the problem of resource shortage, but there is a new architecture to get rid of the old petrochemical era thinking and think about the new architecture for new energy, which may develop the best balance between the development of hydrogen energy and the evolution of the market, just as Tesla directly developed pure lithium vehicles in the past.
However, unlike automobiles, entering the complete aircraft market is not something that start-ups can do, but rather dealing with existing fleets and having greater market opportunities. Therefore, the core key product of the hydrogen fuel engine is locked in and developed, and it is directly positioned as a conversion kit for the current regional aircraft engine, which not only has low barriers to entry but also makes it easy to play value. In particular, the regional aircraft market is huge, with American Airlines alone having thousands of regional aircraft, and the flight distance, power demand, and hydrogen storage tank space are also suitable for hydrogen fuel. The most representative startups are ZeroAvia and Universal Hydrogen.
ZeroAvia's goal is to develop engines that cover long-haul flights from 20-seat areas to more than 100-seat. In January 2023, the company made its first flight with a 19-seat Dornier 228 twin-engine aircraft in a test bench configuration, completing taxiing, takeoff, full-mode cycling, and landing in a total of 10 minutes. Its left wing is fitted with ZeroAvia's hydrogen-electric engine, which operates alongside the Honeywell TPE-331 engine on the right wing. Its 600kW hydrogen powertrain includes two fuel cell stacks paired with a lithium battery pack to provide peak power support during takeoff and additional power for safety testing. The flight has two major significances, one is driven by the largest hydrogen electric motor to date; The second is the UK Civil Aviation Authority's flight clearance specifications, which have stricter requirements than the framework of its 6-seat prototype E-Avia in the past, meaning that its process and design approach are maturing to help finalize and submit for certification by 2023 and provide commercial flights using the technology by 2025. ZeroAvia uses Swedish PowerCell fuel cells for hydrogen aviation solutions, to launch a 19-seat aircraft with a range of 300 miles by 2025. ZeroAvia's 2-5MW powertrain program is already underway, scalable to 90-seat aircraft, with further expansion over the next decade to narrow-body demonstration aircraft.
ZeroAvia is positioned as a pioneer in the development of hydrogen engines, and it is imperative to establish an ecosystem of cooperation between industries. American Airlines, United Airlines, and Alaska Airlines are all shareholders in ZeroAvia. Why U.S. airlines are so interested in this engine can be found out from American Airlines’ plans. The signing of a memorandum of understanding between American Airlines and ZeroAvia for future orders for up to 100 of its hydrogen powertrain engines is an important milestone in the commercialization of hydrogen engines. American Airlines is interested in ZeroAvia's next-generation hydrogen engine with an output of 5mW and scalable to 2026mW certified in 2026 that could be used to replace gas turbines on regional jets such as the Mitsubishi CRJ series (formerly Bombardier). ZeroAvia and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHIRJ) CRJ models complete the engineering, integration, and certification of hydrogen-electric aircraft. In terms of airport infrastructure, partnerships have been established with Rotterdam, Edmonton International Airport, and AGS Airport.

Modular Hydrogen Tanks Address the Lack of Airport Infrastructure
Founded in California in 2020, Universal Hydrogen's product development concept is similar to that of ZeroAvia, developing hydrogen fuel cell electric powertrain conversion kits for regional aircraft, ATR72, and De Havilland Canada Dash-8, to replace their existing turboprop engines. Unlike ZeroAvia's hybrid design, Universal Hydrogen is modified for aerospace use using Plug Power's ProGen series fuel cells, the powertrain does not use lithium batteries, and the fuel cell directly drives the electric motor, which can greatly reduce weight and cost. In addition to the self-developed engine, the most unique feature is the design of a dedicated modular hydrogen tank in the rear of the fuselage. After the hydrogen tank is loaded at the green hydrogen production base, it can be directly loaded onto the aircraft using the existing intermodal cargo network and cargo handling equipment, which can solve the problem of lack of infrastructure at the airport. The company plans to launch passenger services in 2025.
In March 2023, Uviersal Hydrogeny, which used a fuel cell hydrogen engine on the left side of the 40-seat Dash-8 commuter aircraft, with a standard Pratt & Whitney turboprop engine mounted on the right wing, completed a 15-minute test flight. The test flight involved about 16 kilograms of gaseous hydrogen, and it is planned to convert its test aircraft to liquid hydrogen operation later in 2023.
The company claims to have nearly 250 conversion orders worth more than $100 million from 16 customers, including Air New Zealand, and Connect Airlines plans to become the first American airline to use Universal Hydrogen.
The company's long-term goal is to place the huge number of Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 families dominating the single-aisle, or narrow-body fleet, in the market demand. More than half of airlines’ carbon emissions come from these two series of aircraft, and both companies may improve the urgency of this traditional aircraft to meet the Paris Agreement emissions standards by the mid-2030s. In response to the problem that hydrogen fuel requires a large volume of hydrogen storage tanks, Universal Hydrogen is conceived to lengthen the original fuselage to accommodate enough modular hydrogen fuel tanks to have the ability to sail across the American continent or transatlantic. Although the company is not long, it has received strategic investments from aircraft and automotive heavyweights such as GE, Airbus Ventures, Toyota Ventures, JetBlue Ventures, and American Airlines.
In the future, the company plans to promote this modular hydrogen fuel tank to railways, heavy machinery, ships, and automobiles.

The Design of Hydrogen-powered Aircraft Requires more Innovation and Sharing Business Opportunities and Research with the Automotive Industry
The difficulty of using hydrogen energy in civil aircraft is much higher than that of automobiles evolving into hydrogen vehicles. With hydrogen, there are complex challenges for storage alone. Hydrogen is four times the volume of jet fuel, requiring more space, and to match the cold temperatures, the aircraft will have to be redesigned. In terms of infrastructure, in addition to the introduction of hydrogen refueling facilities, related logistical support, etc., must overcome various problems, so that hydrogen-powered long-distance aircraft can complete the filling of hydrogen fuel in a short time as is now, and all the work can be completed within an hour to fly to the next destination. Therefore, hydrogen energy aircraft can not be fully applied to various models like hydrogen vehicles, and must adopt a phased development method, first of all, we must start from a short flight segment. In other words, hydrogen will provide options in the short-range segment and pave the way for possible access to larger segments in the future. Once related technologies such as hydrogen are proven in commercial flights, it will prompt the aviation industry to invest more resources in developing new technologies. In addition, the engine noise and vibration of the hydrogen fuel cell powertrain are significantly lower than those of traditional turbine engines, which not only provides passengers with more comfortable flight travel but also reduces the impact on the ground environment.
Fortunately, low carbon emissions have become a must-follow trend in the world, driving the aviation industry to invest in the development of hydrogen energy, and even stimulate more ideas to overcome market and technical barriers respectively. For example, targeting a large number of regional aircraft modification markets constitutes a sufficient economic scale to easily create opportunities to bring into the market. Another example
The concept of modular hydrogen tank design can solve the shortcomings of the airport's hydrogen fuel supply infrastructure.
In addition, although hydrogen energy in the aviation industry has only just begun, fuel cells can benefit from the experience sharing and transplantation accumulated in road vehicles such as automobiles. PlugPower and PowerCell are prime examples. Another example is Ultima Forma, a British technology company in south London, which is developing ultra-thin bushings made of copper, which can be used inside lightweight carbon fiber hydrogen storage tanks, which can solve the problem of excessive weight, brittleness and corrosion of steel, and is more suitable for use in aircraft.
The current aircraft design, whether in appearance, oil storage tank, or structure, is based on traditional fossil fuels, and cannot optimize the use of hydrogen fuel aircraft. Computer calculations and simulation tools help engineers design hydrogen-powered aircraft quickly and cost-effectively. For example, the use of a computer to complete high-precision design modeling will increase the amount of hydrogen fuel that can be accommodated, which will greatly help improve the efficiency of hydrogen-powered aircraft. This is also the focus of future hydrogen-powered aircraft innovation. In July 2020, a team at Delft University tested a scale model of a new, 3-meter-wide commercial aircraft designed for hydrogen power called the Flying-V, supported by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Airbus which is roughly the same as the A350 at full size and can carry a similar number of passengers. The cabin, cargo hold, and hydrogen storage tank are integrated into two arms of its V-shaped structure, which is 20% more efficient than conventional aircraft. They are more efficient than traditional tube-wing aircraft and have more space to accommodate hydrogen tanks.
The current hydrogen fuel cell, the current mainstream use of proton exchange membrane (PEM) technology, efficiency is lower than the solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) that is currently being actively developed in the industry. Although the weight of SOFC is less favorable than that of PEM, its high efficiency can compensate for this disadvantage. Another advantage of using SOFC in aircraft is its operating temperature of 800°C, which is higher than 100°C of PEM, and the lower air density at high altitudes leads to a decrease in the ability to release waste heat, resulting in a problem that thermal management is not easy, but it becomes easier because of the expansion and ambient temperature difference. Whether it is a hydrogen vehicle or a hydrogen aircraft, the pursuit goal of hydrogen energy technology is consistent, shareable, and shared.

1.     Rolls-Royce, 2022-11-28, Rolls-Royce and easyJet set new world first
2.     Financial Time, 2022-07-17, Sylvia Pfeifer, Rolls-Royce to run engine tests with hydrogen as emissions.
3.     BP, 2022-06, What is sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)?
4.     Cargo-Partner, How hydrogen-powered aircraft could change aviation, climate-neutral up above the clouds
5.     Physics Today, 2020-12-27, Hydrogen-powered aircraft may be getting a lift
6.     Flying Mag,2022-07-05, Thom Patterson, Boeing, and Airbus: A Stark Contrast on Hydrogen
7.     Airbus, 2022-11-18, The cold heart that powers our ZEROe aircraft
8.     AirInsightGroup, 2022-08-03, Richard Schuurman, American follows United as an investor in ZeroAvia
9.     BusinessWire, 2023-03-02, Universal Hydrogen Successfully Completes First Flight of Hydrogen Regional     
10.  BBC, 2022-03-21, Mark Piesing, The epic attempts to power planes with hydrogen




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