The world's largest hydrogen-electric, propulsion-powered zero-emission aircraft

Alaska Airlines partners with ZeroAvia to retrofit a hydrogen-electric propulsion system into a Bombardier Q400.
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ZeroAvia's Bombardier Q400.jpg
ZeroAvia's Bombardier Q400

Joe Nicholson-Alaska Airlines 

Alaska Airlines has partnered with ZeroAvia, a U.S.-based company that designs and builds zero-emission, hydrogen-electric aircraft propulsion systems to retrofit a Bombardier Q400 regional turboprop with a hydrogen-electric propulsion system. 

The retrofitted aircraft will expand the reach and applicability of zero emissions flight technology, further advancing the aviation industry's quest towards achieving net-zero carbon emissions.

At a recent event held at ZeroAvia's Paine Field research and development site, Alaska Airlines' regional carrier, Horizon Air, formally handed over the 76-seat Q400 aircraft to ZeroAvia for research and development purposes. The aircraft was repainted with a special livery to highlight the innovative mission of this partnership. 

ZeroAvia debuted its multi-megawatt modular electric motor system at the event, demonstrated with a propeller spin aboard the ZeroAvia's 15-ton HyperTruck ground-test rig. The electric motor technology, combined with higher-temperature PEM fuel cells and advanced power electronics, is one of three key building blocks for enabling commercially-relevant hydrogen fuel cell engines for larger aircraft.

The world's largest hydrogen-electric, propulsion-powered zero-emission aircraft
HyperTruck ground-test rig

ZeroAvia's hydrogen-electric engine uses fuel cells to generate electricity from hydrogen fuel before using that electricity to power electric motors, which turn the aircraft propellers. The certifiable ZA2000 system will include ZeroAvia's High-Temperature PEM fuel cells and liquid hydrogen fuel storage, integral to delivering the necessary energy density for commercial operations of large regional turboprops. The company has already established an engineering partnership with De Havilland of Canada, the original manufacturer of the Dash 8 family of aircraft, to enable the exchange of data and expertise with the airframe.

Val Miftakhov, founder and CEO of ZeroAvia, said: "Demonstrating this size of aircraft in flight, powered entirely by novel propulsion, would have been unthinkable a few years ago. Launching this program puts us on track for a test flight next year and accelerates our progress toward the future of zero-emission flight for Alaska Airlines and for the world at large."

By aligning ZeroAvia's powertrain with the Dash 8-400 airframe, the project aims to represent a commercially viable zero-emission aircraft with fuel cell engine technology, around five times more powerful than what has been demonstrated. This project shows that new technologies are required to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in aviation, and it can only be achieved through partnerships and collaborations among industry players.

"This is a great step forward in aviation innovation, to help create a new future of flight – right here at home," said Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci. "Alaska Airlines has defined a five-part journey to achieve net zero carbon emissions long-term, but we can't get there alone. New technologies are required to make that future possible, and we're thrilled to partner with industry leader ZeroAvia to make new zero emissions options a reality."

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