Birmingham airport has teamed up with green tech company ZeroAvia in the hope of rolling out domestic flights powered by hydrogen-electric engines by 2025. Olivia Palamountain reports
ZeroAvia is currently working on a zero-emission system powered by a hydrogen-electric engine. This type of tech harnesses hydrogen in fuel cells to generate electricity, which is then used to power electric motors to turn the aircraft’s propellers. The only emission is water.
The new system would be capable of flying 20-seat aircraft 300 nautical miles by 2025. ZeroAvia has already debuted a prototype hydrogen-electric engine for aircraft, which was successfully test-flown at its base in Kemble, Gloucestershire, in January this year.
This positive news paves the way for the on-airfield hydrogen refuelling and zero-emission domestic passenger flights, with green air travel from Birmingham to destinations such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Belfast, Isle of Man and Dublin a potential reality by the middle of this decade.
“Birmingham Airport can be a central hub in a green flight network in the UK, given that any domestic mainland destination will be reachable from the airport using our first systems in 2025,” said Arnab Chatterjee, vice-president of infrastructure at ZeroAvia.
“Given the commitments of the Jet Zero Strategy on domestic aviation, it is fantastic to engage with forward-thinking airports that want to be early innovators and developers to deliver the vision of bringing truly clean, quiet and pollution-free flights to the UK.”
ZeroAvia is also aiming to produce an emissions-free engine for 80-seat aircraft, flying up to 700 nautical miles by 2027 and achieving distances of up to 1000 nautical miles soon after.
Yep, that would mean zero-emission travel to Mediterranean holiday destinations, for example.
For Birmingham airport (BHX), the partnership with ZeroAvia sits alongside its own journey to become a net-zero-carbon airport by 2033, as outlined in its ‘carbon roadmap’ published in 2022.
The airport plans to use an area on its airfield for hydrogen refuelling infrastructure, testing and operations.
Simon Richards, chief finance and sustainability officer at BHX, say: “We are thrilled to partner with ZeroAvia on creating solutions to the main challenge of our generation – protecting the future of our planet. We could, quite conceivably, see the first hydrogen-powered domestic passenger flight taking off from BHX in the UK in the next few years. That’s mind-blowing.”