Flying on hydrogen with medium-sized passenger planes at distances of up to 750 kilometers: a group of Dutch companies will make this possible from 2028. The national government is investing 100 million euros in the project.
We remove the engine and build a new system in it, after which it flies on hydrogen
Seventeen companies and organizations participate in the initiative, including Fokker and TU Delft. “It’s a very nice program with a lot of potential,” says Joris Melkert, an aviation expert who is not involved in the project.
The ambition is remarkable because hydrogen-powered passenger planes – without emitting harmful greenhouse gases – are usually seen as something of the future. Currently, only experiments with small devices are performed. The British-American Zero Avia wants Cessnas to fly on hydrogen from 2024. Swedish Heart Aerospace is building a brand new aircraft for nineteen passengers, which from 2026 should be able to cover a distance of 400 kilometers.
The Dutch consortium says it will be able to make commercially viable flights between, for example, Rotterdam and London from 2028 possible for flights with forty to eighty passengers. It will convert existing intermediate propeller aircraft. “We’re taking the engine out and building a new system in it, after which it’s flying on hydrogen,” says entrepreneur Michel van Ireland, who has been helping to bring the companies together for the past two years. In the two years, a first design has already been made and the economy is calculated.
Hydrogen tank in the tail
Where the aviation fuel is currently stored in the wings, it will be replaced in the so-called Hydrogen Aircraft Powertrain and Storage System (HAPSS) by a hydrogen tank in the tail of the aircraft. The hydrogen is transported to the engine and converted into electricity, which is then used to drive the propellers.
,, There are currently about 1500 planes flying around the world, which fits our package. We have already received the first request for a quote, ”says Van Ireland. Especially in the Caribbean, but also in Scandinavia, there are many islands where neither train nor car is an alternative to flying. The hope is that the Dutch companies will subsequently become involved in the construction of brand new aircraft as soon as Airbus and Embraer embark on it.
Pioneering ‘green’ flight
Flight is a relatively polluting mode of transport. According to the information organization Milieucentraal, a flight costs the environment seven to eleven times as much as the same trip by train and two to four times as much as a car, depending on the number of passengers.
Will ‘green’ flying on hydrogen really happen, just as electric driving broke through when Tesla had made it attractive? “You often see that people are a little optimistic, but on the other hand, that it can certainly be done in the long term,” says aviation expert Melkert. He expects that in the coming years more and more biopetroleum and synthetic petroleum will be used, which is also allowed in existing appliances. “But hydrogen is simply the easiest sustainable fuel to make. It’s also very light. So in the long run there are opportunities there, and the Netherlands can seize them too.”
more expensive tickets
By flying on hydrogen, the Dutch aviation industry will once again take the lead
And the tickets, will they get more expensive? “It will happen anyway,” Melkert says. Aviation must also simply become sustainable by 2050. “This means that a lot of research and development must take place, and all sustainable fuels are more expensive than fossil petroleum. They are too cheap because we do not pay a fair price for those who also take into account the damage to the environment. So it gets cleaner. It will not get cheaper. ”
The consortium estimates that a ticket will be up to 10 percent more expensive, but that consumers will also be willing to pay if their flight is really green. “We want to speed up the greening of aviation”, says Rinke Zonneveld from the South Dutch development company InnovationQuarter, also a partner in the project. The Netherlands has hundreds of years of experience in aviation. But in recent years primarily as a supplier to major foreign aircraft manufacturers. “By flying on hydrogen, the Dutch aviation industry will once again take the lead.”
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