Universal Hydrogen and its hydrogen fuel cell partner Plug Power are joining forces with electric motor specialists MagniX and AeroTec to set up a Hydrogen Aviation Test and Service Center at Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington. The partners will use the new facility to convert a Dash 8 regional airliner to hydrogen propulsion in time to start commercial operations in 2025. Flight testing is due to begin in 2022.
The new hydrogen powertrain will consist of an electric propulsion unit (EPU) developed by MagniX and fuel cells provided by Plug Power, which has extensive experience converting trucks to hydrogen. Seattle-based AeroTec will take the lead on converting the Dash 8s to hydrogen propulsion, conducting flight tests, and arranging for certification under FAA supplemental type certificates. The system installation work will be conducted at the Moses Lake facility.
MagniX is also working to convert existing fixed-wing aircraft such as the Cessna Grand Caravan and the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver to electrical power. The company, which is based in Washington state, is also providing the EPU for the new Alice all-electric aircraft being developed by its sister company Eviation.
Several airlines, including Icelandair, Spain’s Air Nostrum, and U.S. regional carrier Ravn Air have signed letters of intent to convert some of their existing or future fleets to hydrogen power. Universal Hydrogen also intends to offer conversions for the ATR 42 regional airliner.
The hydrogen-powered Dash 8 aircraft, which carry between 41 and 60 passengers, will be able to operate on routes of up to around 625 miles. Universal Hydrogen’s plan calls for the fuel to be delivered directly to aircraft in capsules that are installed in a compartment at the rear of the fuselage.
“Moses Lake and Washington state are the perfect locations for us to base this center,” said Universal Hydrogen co-founder and CEO. “The tremendous aerospace and cleantech workforce, our incredible partners here, abundant renewable electricity for green hydrogen production, and the support of local and state governments are unparalleled.”