Hydrogen-electric aviation solutions developer ZeroAvia is to collaborate with its strategic investor Shell on the design and build of two commercial-scale mobile refuellers for use at its research and development site in Hollister, California. This follows recent positive predictions relating to the falling price trajectory of hydrogen fuel and a flurry of state-led activity for establishing H2 hubs as the Department of Energy prepares to receive bids from across the US.
At the test facility, Shell will also provide compressed, low-carbon hydrogen supply to the facility and other locations in the western US. This strategic collaboration will support the development of ZeroAvia's flight testing programme in the US following the arrival of its second Dornier 228 at Hollister last month and will advance the company's Hydrogen Airport Refuelling Ecosystem (HARE) on a larger scale.
ZeroAvia's zero-emission powertrains use hydrogen fuel in a fuel cell to create a chemical reaction that produces electricity. That electricity then powers electric motors that spin the propellers, while producing no emissions other than water.
Shell general manager, hydrogen Oliver Bishop says: “Shell recognises the aviation sector has unique challenges in decarbonisation and needs practical and scalable net-zero solutions. We believe ZeroAvia's technology is a viable option, and this agreement will allow us to demonstrate successful provision of low-carbon hydrogen supply while supporting development of codes, standards and refuelling protocols for hydrogen-powered aviation.”
The deal with Shell comes as ZeroAvia also unveils Europe's first landside-to-airside hydrogen airport pipeline. The 100m long hydrogen pipeline runs alongside ZeroAvia's hangar at Cotswold airport in the UK. The company will utilise it alongside an electrolyser and mobile refueller to use low-carbon hydrogen for its test flight programme. The pipeline will help ZeroAvia demonstrate and explore the operational safety case for hydrogen pipelines and refuelling infrastructure at airports.
The company received support for the pipeline from the UK Government's Department for Transport and the Connected Places Catapult as part of the Zero Emission Flight Infrastructure (ZEFI) programme to enable airports and airfields to prepare for the future of zero-emission operations.
Both projects also enable ZeroAvia to further explore the connection between aircraft refuelling and landside hydrogen use cases, such as road transport. It operates multiple hydrogen fuel cell road vehicles as part of its operations at Cotswold airport and Hollister, demonstrating the potential for airports to act as hydrogen hubs for onward transport and ground operations.
VP, infrastructure Arnab Chatterjee says: “These milestones represent significant hydrogen infrastructure advancements for ZeroAvia and the industry. Hydrogen-electric aviation is the only practical, holistic and economically attractive solution to aviation's growing climate change impact. Fuel provision needs to be economical and convenient for airlines to achieve operational cost benefits, and ZeroAvia is leading these pioneering infrastructure developments together with leading partners like Shell.”
The company has also been working alongside the Department for Transport and Connected Places Catapult on a concept study for liquid hydrogen mobile refuelling vehicles. This will inform ZeroAvia's development of a large-scale liquid hydrogen refuelling truck, an important step as the company progresses its powertrains from gaseous to liquid hydrogen to support larger aircraft.
ZeroAvia will begin flight-testing its ZA600 hydrogen-electric powertrain this summer using its two Dornier-228 testbed aircraft, first in the UK, and later replicating this work on the US-based demonstrator. The development of this 600kW powertrain is part of Project HyFlyer II and will deliver a fully certified powertrain for aircraft of up to 19 seats by 2024. HyFlyer II is supported by the UK Government's Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy (BEIS), Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) and Innovate UK through the ATI Programme. The company is also now retrofitting a second Dornier-228 testbed in Hollister to conduct further flight testing.
ZeroAvia has also partnered with ZEV Station to develop hydrogen hubs at airports throughout California.