- Universal Hydrogen completed a successful 15-minute test flight on the largest hydrogen-powered aircraft to date, a modified Dash-8.
- However, the flight was not entirely without carbon emissions, as only one wing was powered by the hydrogen fuel cell while the other relied on a standard engine.
- The test shows that Universal Hydrogen is on the right path, but there is still much work to be done before hydrogen fuel cell-powered flights become mainstream.
Universal Hydrogen, a startup approaching $100 million in funding, completed a 15-minute test on what is the largest aircraft to date powered by hydrogen fuel cell.
The company’s goal is to make a carbon-free flight possible in the future, according to its official page, and it took one step towards achieving this goal with its successful test.
Its plane of choice was Dash-8, which typically carries up to 50 passengers but was modified to accomplish the test. For example, it only had three persons on board — two pilots and an engineer. Also, its interior was stripped to carry hydrogen tanks, electronics and sensors.
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In addition, it carried an electric motor, which played the most important role during the flight as it turned hydrogen into electricity and water to make it pollution free.
However, the flight was not 100 per cent without carbon emission. In fact, the hydrogen fuel cell only powered one of the plane’s wings as the other still relied on the standard Pratt and Whitney turboprop engine.
The large plane could not run smoothly on only hydrogen fuel because the quantity needed to power it for even that short distance would require more tanks than it was carrying. Although, the pilot claimed that at one point during level flight, the airplane was ‘almost’ entirely flying on hydrogen fuel cell as the turboprop engine was throttled down.
While the test is a success as it proves that Universal Hydrogen is on the right path, it also shows that there is still a lot of work to be done before it becomes mainstream.
Hydrogen fuel cell-powered flights face several problems including lack of enough energy in the fuel themselves, quantity needed to power flights, cost, and more.
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