Aircraft

Universal Hydrogen and Magnix building world's largest hydrogen plane

Universal Hydrogen and Magnix ...
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
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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
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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

Hydrogen is well and truly on the rise as the zero-emissions aviation fuel of the future, with Airbus announcing its ZeroE initiative to get hydrogen airliners into production by 2035. But that's a long way off, and innovators are pushing to get H2 aircraft operating commercially much earlier.

A new LA-based fuel logistics startup, Universal Hydrogen, has embarked on a project to develop a retrofittable hydrogen powertrain for existing airliners, and will test it with a 40-seat De Havilland Canada DHC8-Q300, commonly known as the Dash-8, that will become the world's largest hydrogen-fueled commercial aircraft.

Where Airbus plans to burn hydrogen as a combustion fuel in modified gas turbines, Universal is developing a fully electric fuel-cell powertrain complete with Magnix electric motors to drive the Dash-8's two turboprops. Magnix brings some experience to the table, after powering the world's largest electric aircraft earlier this year – a retrofitted nine-seater Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, which took its first flight in May.

Universal's hydrogen-powered Dash-8 will use a pair of two-megawatt Magnix electric motors, offering a little more power than the standard plane's pair of 1,860-kW Pratt & Whitney turboprop motors offer. The hydrogen will act as a battery, producing electricity as it's run through the aircraft's fuel cells.

According to AINOnline, the standard plane's 56-seat capacity is reduced to 40 because of large hydrogen modules that'll replace the last few rows of seats. Range will be around 400 nautical miles (460 mi, 740 km) plus reserve on gaseous hydrogen, meaning the hydrogen Dash-8 could serve about 75 percent of current Dash-8 flight routes, and once a liquid hydrogen system is implemented those figures should rise to 550 nm (630 mi, 1,020 km) and 95 percent. Fueling will be handled by standard cargo-loading equipment or even forklifts; Universal is treating the hydrogen fuel as dry freight to be loaded in and out in seven-foot-long (2-m), three-foot-diameter (0.9-m) modules.

Universal believes it can get this project into commercial service as soon as 2024, with passenger prices no higher than regular Dash-8 trips despite the limited seats and exotic fuel. The company says there's around 2,200 compatible Dash-8 aircraft operating globally that could be retrofitted, and it's working towards developing a system that can be incorporated into new aircraft designs.

Hydrogen fuel's high energy density, as well as the fact that there are many different ways to produce it, make it much more suitable for weight-sensitive aviation use than lithium batteries. As part of this initiative, Universal will have to prove the safety of a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain, including drop, burst and vent tests on the fuel modules – these should provide an answer to critics' assertions that hydrogen is inherently more dangerous than aviation fuel.

Source: Universal Hydrogen via Magnix

10 comments
FB36
ANY HYDROGEN (land/air/sea) VEHICLE IS A HUGE MISTAKE!!!

Our world already always have countless people keep burning to death alive (after traffic accidents), because of using gasoline (which easily starts fires) as fuel! (Diesel, for example, does NOT easily starts fires!)

Hydrogen, on the other hand, does NOT start fires but EXPLODES like a bomb!!!

If there are hydrogen vehicles around, do you seriously think their tanks would never leak or rapture, because of any accident/mishandling???

IMHO, any vehicle which battery does not provide enough power/range should/must use bio-diesel as (range extender) fuel!!!
(Bio-diesel can be produced from many kinds of crops/biomass & can be used by any regular diesel vehicles too!!!)
Edward Vix
Hydrogen in a flying machine, again. Oh, the humanity!
Towerman
HYDROGEN (land/air/sea) VEHICLE WILL BE A HUGE SUCCESS ! !! ! EXCELLENT. @FB36, just another fossil fuel preaching propagandist, clearly not understanding how the engineers will make the storage failsafe
Steve Colmann
Right on Brilliant HYDROGEN POWER is NOW ready for commercial use FINALLY !!!!!!!!
shanti
AeroVironment's Global Observer fell out of the sky with a nearly full hydrogen tank. The cryogenic compressed tank went "thud". No leak, no fire, no explosion.
ljaques
Jeeze, the furor over one hydrogen refilling station explosion (walls remained standing, no biggie) is just unwarranted, folks! I don't foresee too many H2 vehicles on the roads any time soon, but they're just as safe (well, dangerous) as gas fueled vehicles. Until either fuel is diluted into the proper Stoichiometric ratio, it can't explode and is harder to burn. But if you want effervescent, try a fuel/air mixture of acetylene. THAT has some pop to it. LOL. We may see a few H2 fueled electric planes in the air, but I'm sure the vast majority will continue to be Jet fueled planes. And we may see a few H2 fueled electric cars on the road, but the majority will phase out of gasoline/diesel into electric within a decade. H2 gives electric planes the distance they need to compete, and that's good. Go for it!
Fairly Reasoner
aka, flying b*mb
1stClassOPP
Ok, this might sound naive, or stupid, but why not focus on developing small nuclear powered engines? We know there are many nuclear powered ships, subs, and power plants all over the world, so go nuclear!
martinwinlow
Oh, dear. Like so many things in life, on the face of it, this seems a good idea. Then, when you have some understanding of the real complexities and problems, not so good. Quite why people think aircraft will fair any differently after all the hype and ignorance has been swept away than road-based H2 fuels cell-powered vehicles is a complete mystery.

A few examples:
@ Towerman - I can only assume you are blissfully unaware that, currently, 98% of H2 is derived from steam-reformed natural gas (a fossil fuel the last time I looked).

@ ljaques - In fact the mixture range over which H2 and air is detonatable is 10 times wider than petrol vapour/air (~70% Vs ~7%) and therefore any leak is at least that much more likely to ignite. Further more, H2 has the smallest molecule size of any substance known to man in its natural state and is therefore extremely difficult to contain especially when sufficiently compressed to make it practical enough to transport (typically at around 10,000PSI). The figures for range given in the article sound *hopelessly* optimistic to me.

@ FB36 - Growing anything using current agricultural techniques to make bio-diesel is a total farce. Even if you put the total land area currently used in agriculture in the US over to grow bio-diesl crops, it would account for a mere 10% of fossil-fuel used by road-based vehicles in the US. Meanwhile everyone would starve. On top of that, as ever with internal combustion engines, 75-80% of the fuel made would go up as hot (and grossly polluting) air. That is, I think anyone with any sense would agree, a truly foolish idea.

If you really want to get a proper handle on why this idea is just daft for anything other than a hight niche application, see planetforlife.com/h2/index.html. I simply cannot understand why the people funding this silliness have not read this or any of the other equivalent papers on the misguided belief that the H2 fuel cell is the answer to our transport problem.

The reality is that battery technology will develop far quicker to make electric vehicles of all types a reality way before H2FC ones become affordable and practical.
Worzel
The DEATH of the airships, was caused by hydrogen! Will people never learn from history? It seems not!