Universal Hydrogen Co., a company with the mission to make hydrogen aviation a reality in the near future, has been granted a special airworthiness certificate in the experimental category by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). They have also released video footage of the first successful taxi tests of the aircraft, which were conducted to evaluate the performance of the fuel-cell electric powertrain at low power settings and airspeeds.
The Dash 8-300 flying testbed has a megawatt-class hydrogen fuel cell powertrain installed in one of its nacelles. This configuration closely resembles the company’s first product – a conversion kit for ATR 72-600 regional airliners – which is expected to be certified and in commercial passenger service starting in 2025. Universal Hydrogen’s powertrain does not utilize a hybrid battery architecture, instead transmitting power directly from the fuel cells to the electric motor. This decreases weight and lifecycle costs significantly.
“We are simultaneously providing a pragmatic, near-term solution for hydrogen infrastructure and delivery, as well as for converting existing passenger aircraft to use this lightweight, safe, and true-zero-emissions fuel,” said Paul Eremenko, co-founder and CEO of Universal Hydrogen. “Today’s milestones are essential, important steps to putting the industry on a trajectory to meet Paris Agreement obligations. The only alternative is curtailing aviation traffic growth to curb emissions.”
The FAA approval allows the Dash 8-300 flying testbed to take its first flight at Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington. This will be the largest hydrogen fuel cell-powered aircraft to ever take flight and the second hydrogen-powered aircraft since the Soviet flight test of a Tupolev Tu-155 airliner.
In December 2022, Universal Hydrogen conducted operational tests at its engineering center in Toulouse, France, revealing its modular hydrogen delivery system. This system offers airports a cost–effective way to become hydrogen–ready, as well as eliminating transfer losses and streamlining hydrogen fueling operations. This technology is a major breakthrough in the quest to make zero–emissions fuel a reality.