- An important step towards climate-neutral passenger aircraft.
- Promising hydrogen fuel cell system in the megawatt range is being developed and will be demonstrated in flight by 2025.
- Ten partners from science and industry are jointly promoting flying with hydrogen.
- A Dornier 328 will become a demonstration aircraft for climate-neutral flights in the EASA large aircraft class (‘CS25’).
- Participation of the DLR spin-off H2FLY strengthens DLR’s strategic position in technology transfer.
The future climate-neutral air transport system needs carbon-dioxide-free propulsion technologies. For regional aircraft, hydrogen-electric propulsion systems with hydrogen fuel cell technology offer a promising option. This is now receiving a strong boost from the ‘328H2-FC’ project. Led by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) in cooperation with H2FLY, Deutsche Aircraft, Diehl Aviation and six other partners, the project is the first to develop a fuel cell system with a power output of one and a half megawatts for use in flight. The project opens up a technological perspective for future regional aircraft with 40 seats. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz; BMWK) presented the funding notification at the beginning of 2022. The BMWK is funding the realisation of the first megawatt hydrogen fuel cell system for air transport with approximately 30 million euros.
Within the scope of the partnership, a Dornier 328 aircraft will be converted to be used for hydrogen-electric passenger flights for the first time. This involves the electrification of the powertrain and the integration of a fuel cell system, including a cooling system and a liquid hydrogen tank. The ‘328H2-FC’ project paves the way for proving the potential of hydrogen for climate-neutral air transport. The unique hybrid-electric powered demonstration aircraft for EASA’s large aircraft class (‘CS25’) is scheduled to take off for the first time in 2025. Before that, tests of the fuel cell system that is to be developed are planned, using a new ground-based test facility at DLR.
Josef Kallo, co-founder and CEO of H2FLY: “With this funding, H2FLY will consolidate its position as a global technology leader in hydrogen-electric propulsion. Flying with hydrogen without carbon dioxide emissions will become a reality.”
Anna Christmann, Member of the Bundestag (Federal Parliament) and Federal Government Coordinator of German Aerospace Policy: “H2FLY is an important building block for the future strategy of emission-free air transport. With this project funded by the BMWK, we have a unique opportunity to extend the technological lead in hydrogen-powered flight here in Germany. With our funding, we are making it possible for researchers to overcome the technical challenges involved in using hydrogen in air transport.”
André Thess, Director of the DLR Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics: “With a fuel cell that generates more than one megawatt of power, we are opening the door to climate-neutral passenger air transport without carbon dioxide emissions. At DLR’s Stuttgart site, we will test the new technology extensively before moving on to aircraft integration and initial flight tests. By the end of the decade, such passenger aircraft could already be in commercial operation.”
Martin Nüßeler, CTO of Deutsche Aircraft: “Our Dornier 328 is the optimal platform for demonstrating the new fuel cell technology. We can use this to bring the technology into real-world conditions and accelerate our progress towards climate-neutral air transport.”
Benno Petersen, Head of Innovation and R&T at Diehl Aerospace: “Our company is participating in the ‘328H2-FC’ project through extensive research programmes. This is a clear signal of our interest in this future-facing propulsion technology and underscores the important role that the supplier industry plays in the development of such innovative systems.”
In cruise flight, the use of a hydrogen fuel cell energy system enables the aircraft to operate without emitting carbon dioxide, which means that a large part of the flight distance can be covered in a completely climate-neutral manner. For the energy-intensive take-off, a gas turbine will provide additional thrust as part of the testing of the hybrid-electric concept.