ZeroAvia is joining forces with energy group Shell and Rotterdam The Hague Airport in the Netherlands to prepare to support flights with regional airliners converted to hydrogen propulsion. The partners this week announced a collaboration to develop a concept of operations that will support initial demonstration flights in 2024 as a prelude to the launch of commercial passenger flights in 2025.
The partnership, which was announced on February 7, is intended to prepare for the entry into service of an existing 10- to 19-seat aircraft that will be converted to use ZeroAvia’s ZA600 hydrogen-propulsion system. The company, which on January 19 achieved a first flight in the UK with a Dornier 228 twin turboprop equipped as a technology demonstrator, says that it plans to announce the first aircraft type to be converted for commercial use in the coming months.
The main focus of the new collaboration will be on preparing for the first hydrogen flight from Rotterdam The Hague Airport, which serves both the second-largest city in the Netherlands and its capital. The partners are working to establish routes to European destinations within a 250-nm radius of the airport.
The project will seek to develop aviation-specific safety standards and protocols for refueling and managing hydrogen. The partners will hold discussions with airlines that may operate both the demonstration and subsequent commercial flights. The work will also involve Rotterdam The Hague Innovation Airport, which is a foundation established by the airport and the city of Rotterdam to advance sustainable aviation initiatives.
In a separate announcement this week, the FAA granted ZeroAvia's rival Universal Hydrogen an experimental airworthiness certificate, giving the start-up the green light to proceed with the first test flight of its hydrogen-powered De Havilland Dash 8-300 testbed. The company also said it has already conducted taxi tests with the technology demonstrator aircraft and indicated that it is getting close to a first flight with the larger aircraft at Moses Lake in Washington state.
As a major oil and gas group, Shell has considerable expertise across the hydrogen supply chain, including the design and operation of refueling equipment. “This project and collaboration enable a rapid decarbonization of a hard-to-electrify sector such as aviation,” commented Oliver Bishop, general manager of hydrogen. “It also offers the chance to support one of the first international zero-emission passenger routes. On top of that, it allows the opportunity to road test multi-fuel and multimodal fueling operations in a live airport environment.”
ZeroAvia has previously worked with Shell for the provision of low-carbon-intensity hydrogen to power some of its testing and early commercial operations in California. It aims to submit a type certificate application for the 600-kilowatt powertrain by the end of 2023 as it works to establish the basis for the approval. The company will also seek supplemental type certificates covering the conversion of each specific aircraft type.
In the longer term, ZeroAvia is working on a larger 2.5-megawatt powertrain that would be suitable for aircraft carrying up to 90 passengers. It aims to start ground testing this later in 2023 and is also working to secure its design and production organization approvals.
According to ZeroAvia, it now holds provisional order commitments covering around 1,500 of the propulsion systems, with between 600 and 700 of these intended for aircraft with up to 19 passenger seats. The company aims to start taking deposits for delivery slots this year. It has indicated it will soon announce the launch customer for its conversion program but has not yet said whether this would be the airline that will operate the first flights out of Rotterdam.
Last year, ZeroAvia announced a partnership with Scottish airports group AGS to prepare the infrastructure to support hydrogen-powered aircraft.