Measurement and Testing

  • Was the First Hydrogen Flight Really Zero Emissions?

Was the First Hydrogen Flight Really Zero Emissions?

Nov 03 2020 Read 1020 Times

While there was plenty of hype surrounding the first test flight of a hydrogen-powered passenger plane, new information suggests the milestone was also propelled by fossil fuels. ZeroAvia, the company behind the next-generation aircraft, has admitted the hydrogen used to power the six-seater plane was produced largely by non-renewables. It’s an awkward faux pas for the company, whose CEO Val Miftakhov says “While some experimental aircraft have flown using hydrogen fuel cells as a power source, the size of this commercially available aircraft shows that paying passengers could be boarding a truly zero-emission flight very soon.”

ZeroAvia keen to harness “transformational possibilities” of hydrogen

The hydrogen-powered plane may not have had an invisible environmental footprint, though it still represents an exciting leap forward for the aviation industry. A pioneer of decarbonised commercial aviation, ZeroAvia is passionate about “realising the transformational possibilities of moving from fossil fuels to zero-emission hydrogen.” Following a retrofit, the company’s Piper M-class aircraft is now the largest hydrogen-fuelled plane in the world.

British government throws support at zero emissions aircraft

The achievement is part of the HyFlyer project, a cutting-edge research and development program partly funded by the British government. Next, ZeroAvia plans to launch a 250-mile zero emission flight designed to simulate popular routes such as London to Edinburgh and Los Angeles to San Francisco. Eventually, the company hopes to develop a hydrogen-powered aircraft with the capacity to fly 500 miles.

“Aviation is a hotbed of innovation and ZeroAvia’s fantastic technology takes us all one step closer to a sustainable future for air travel,” says UK aviation minister Robert Courts. “Through our ground-breaking Jet Zero partnership we’re working hard with industry to drive innovation in zero carbon flight, and we look forward to seeing the sector go from strength to strength.”

Hitting net zero

For Business and Industry Minister Nadhim Zahawi, the development of zero emissions aircraft will play a critical role in reducing air pollution and helping the UK hit its net zero carbon emissions target by 2050. “Backed by Government funding, this flight is another exciting milestone in ZeroAvia’s project,” says Zahawi. “It shows that technologies to clean up air travel are now at our fingertips - with enormous potential to build back better and drive clean economic growth in the UK.”

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