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Innovative German Airline Is Betting on Hydrogen-Electric Alternatives

In just two years from now, we might be witnessing one of the greatest achievements in recent years in terms of clean aviation – the full certification of a hydrogen-electric powertrain capable of powering a 19-seat commercial aircraft. That's the plan for the ZA600, a 600 kW propulsion system developed by ZeroAvia, an expert in hydrogen-based propulsion for aircraft.

ZeroAvia is building its way slowly but surely, gradually moving toward bigger and bolder engine designs. Last year, it kicked off real-world testing of the ZA600 in the UK with the help of a retrofitted Dornier 228. So far, the aviation company has secured pre-orders from multiple players around the world, including the Indian aviation operator Mehair, which plans to retrofit its Cessna Caravan fleet with the ZA600 solution.

It's not just established industry players that are eyeing the ZA600 and its potential benefits. Flyv is a German airline startup looking to introduce an innovative commercial concept. The concept includes using AI technology for flexible booking and operating smaller aircraft with no more than ten passengers for even more flexibility. Plus, this will be a good way to ramp up activity in the existing smaller airfields, which, according to flyv, are largely underutilized. In terms of aircraft, flyv intends to operate mixed fleets of existing aircraft and new-generation air vehicles that run on clean fuels.

This is how the German startup teamed up with ZeroAvia, and the two have big plans for regional air mobility across Europe. A new era is dawning, and innovative airlines will be at the forefront just as much as eVTOL makers, SAF (sustainable aviation fuel) producers, and hydrogen technology experts.

While the ZA600 is already working to obtain its certification in both the UK and the US, ZeroAvia is eagerly anticipating the next step, which is the HyperCore motor. This 900 kW electric motor will be a crucial component of the ZA2000, the company's ultimate hydrogen-electric system designed for regional turboprops with 40 to 80 seats.

The ZA600 was also previously selected by another innovative airline, Ecojet. Ecojet aims to become the UK's first green airline. Although it will kick off operations this year with conventionally powered aircraft flying to and from Edinburgh, the airline hopes to move quickly to hydrogen-electric alternatives in the form of retrofitted aircraft.

So far, ZeroAvia has secured more than 2,000 pre-orders for the ZA600 powertrain. And that's not all. The UK-based and US-based hydrogen expert is also developing the auxiliary infrastructure, including hydrogen refueling trucks. It was recently awarded a grant by the California Energy Commission (CEC) to design a brand-new concept for mobile liquid hydrogen refueling.

This article originally appeared on autoevolution.

Photo: ZeroAvia

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