Aircraft

Universal Hydrogen to convert 15-plus airliners to run on H2 pods

Universal Hydrogen to convert ...
Universal Hydrogen is building interchangeable hydrogen pods for fuel-cell airliners, and has signed deals with three airlines to convert 21 aircraft to hydrogen-electric
Universal Hydrogen is building interchangeable hydrogen pods for fuel-cell airliners, and has signed deals with three airlines to convert 21 aircraft to hydrogen-electric
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Universal Hydrogen is building interchangeable hydrogen pods for fuel-cell airliners, and has signed deals with three airlines to convert 21 aircraft to hydrogen-electric
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Universal Hydrogen is building interchangeable hydrogen pods for fuel-cell airliners, and has signed deals with three airlines to convert 21 aircraft to hydrogen-electric

Universal Hydrogen has signed letters of intent with three airlines to convert more than 15 regional airliners to run on green hydrogen. The company is developing conversion kits that accept interchangeable hydrogen modules that work like recyclable coffee pods.

The aircraft in question will be De Havilland Canada DHC8-Q300, or Dash-8. Universal Hydrogen has been working on a Dash-8 kit for some time now, replacing the standard plane's Pratt & Whitney turboprops and jet fuel tanks with a pair of two-megawatt Magnix electric motors, a hefty fuel cell and a modular hydrogen fuel system whose tanks pop in and out like great big seven-foot (2 m) long Nespresso pods. That's a comparison the company seems keep to push, as evidenced by this recent Reuters interview.

The hydrogen conversion takes up some space – the Dash-8's cabin shrinks from 56 seats to 40 – but these planes will offer a groundbreaking emissions-free travel service up to range figures around 460 miles (740 km). That covers about 75 percent of current routes flown by Dash-8s, says Universal, and they could extend that to 95 percent when they get liquid hydrogen figured out.

The company has signed letters of intent with Spain's Air Nostrum for 11 aircraft, Ravn Alaska for 5 aircraft, and Icelandair Group for an unspecified "fleet" of planes. All these deals would also establish Universal as the hydrogen pod service provider.

A De Havilland Canada DCH-8 (Dash-8) Q300 like the aircraft above will be retrofitted with a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain to become the world's largest hydrogen aircraft
A De Havilland Canada DCH-8 (Dash-8) Q300 like the aircraft above will be retrofitted with a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain to become the world's largest hydrogen aircraft

No terms for the deals have been announced, and while this does seem like good news for clean aviation, evtol.com has found some reasons to pump the brakes on the hype train here. LOIs are preliminary, non-binding and often highly provisional.

And one of the companies involved, Ravn Alaska, is only a year out of bankruptcy, and its new owners have also signed a LOI for 50 electric STOL aircraft from Airflow, and told employees in a leaked briefing that it was also planning to run a low-cost carrier using Boeing 757s. Ambition clearly isn't a problem here, but delivering on all these plans will require enormous funds.

Still, if these plans come to fruition, and Universal does manage to "bring hydrogen-powered Dash-8s to our skies in the next several years," as Icelandair President and CEO Nils Bogason hopes, it would certainly seem like an inflection point in this very exciting new technology, and there will certainly be passengers ready to choose a greener option.

Source: Universal Hydrogen

6 comments
6 comments
FB36
It is extremely bad idea to use hydrogen as fuel for land/sea/air transportation because it is pretty much explosive!
Imagine a future world w/ all kinds of hydrogen vehicles, tanker trucks, gas stations everywhere!
Are we seriously thinking that there will be never any accidents/leaks/ruptures/mishandling to trigger massive explosions?

Not to mention, there is actually no need at all to use hydrogen as fuel!
All light/small vehicles are already becoming fully electric & all heavy/big land/sea/air vehicles just need us to start producing biodiesel/biofuel at large scales!
(From all possible industrial/agricultural/forestry waste/biomass & trash & sewage!)
jerryd
When you can have drop in synfuels, what's the point of paying 4x as much for H2 to use and paying $400k for 2 motor system? Them lose 40% of your pay load you no longer get paid for.
And that they didn't do the smart thing, put the H2 tanks on the wing in the engine pod shows design incompetence.
paul314
So essentially a 30% increase in fixed costs per seat trading for zero emissions (assuming the hydrogen is green)? Sounds like a plausible transition. If the electric engines are as low-maintenance as most electrics, that could bring the cost-per-seat back down -- turboprops require quite a bit of maintenance.
Bill S.
This is a great way to bankrupt an airline. Good thinking guys.
Steven Clarkson
@Paul314 right on, the need to use hydrogen fuel is growing, fossil fuel technology is expensive, big / heavy and cumbersome. Electric motors is the genius invention of all time requiring very little maintenence !

Its funny to see the armchair pilot brigades above think they know more than those already implementing it. Fuel is heavy nit too mention explosive. Ever seen a big fuel filled jet plane come down looking like a molotov cocktail, i have and its beyond devestating, theres basically nothing left after everything is burnt to a crisp, including the occupants.
David
For Universal Hydrogen's proprietary pod design to be widely accepted its practical use needs to be proven soon and form the basis of a de facto standard for small aircraft. Universal Hydrogen's About page has a graphic showing their pods being loaded in a manner similar to standardised cargo containers such as LD3, LD6, etc. It'll be interesting to see how soon there will be a de jure system of hydrogen pods with the aviation industry.