Bremen, Germany-based start-up airline Evia Aero and Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS), a UK SME developing a hydrogen fuel cell conversion of the nine seat Britten Norman Islander, have entered into a strategic collaboration to bring hydrogen fuel cell powered air services to northern Europe.
Their collaboration will focus on both the aircraft operations and hydrogen infrastructure for a north European zero-emissions sub-regional air service, and represents a vital step in enabling some of the first zero-emissions airline operations in the world.
"Sustainable aviation can only be implemented through exchange and teamwork. The outstanding developments of Cranfield and the commercial knowledge of markets in Europe of Evia Aero are now combined," says Evia founder and CEO Florian Kruse.
“Sub-regional operations will be where zero-emissions flight will first enter service," adds Cranfield CEO Paul Hutton. "This technology will help redefine regional connectivity, and Evia's planned route networks align perfectly with the hydrogen Islander aircraft and its expected performance. We're very pleased to be working together with Florian and the team.”
CAeS is developing a conversion to a Britten Norman Islander nine seat aircraft that will transform its propulsion system from conventional fossil fuel to that of gaseous hydrogen via a fuel cell and electric motor. The solution will be emissions free and the resulting supplemental type certificate (STC) is planned to be certified for passenger flight by 2025.
In March 2021, fuel cell system developer Ricardo UK and Scottish hydrogen fuel tank technology company Innovatus Technologies joined this Project Fresson (no emissions powertrain) consortium. Innovatus Technologies designs next generation ultra-lightweight hydrogen tanks by exploiting patented cellular core composite techniques, critical to the successful integration and exploitation of hydrogen fuel cell power systems in applications across aerospace and other sectors.
And in October 2021, the companies teamed with the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group to work on making hydrogen-powered flights to the UK's Isles of Scilly commercially available. ISSG has operated the Islander for many years through its airline subsidiary Isles of Scilly Skybus, and is providing expertise gained from its own operations and its understanding of infrastructure requirements.
The original concept for a zero-carbon aircraft used battery power, but it soon became apparent that the impact of weight, charge time and charging infrastructure made a battery-only solution impractical. Moving to a hydrogen-electric fuel cell option provides operators with greater flexibility, higher passenger load and improvements to the bottom line through a reduction in powertrain maintenance cost and reduced variable costs.
Green hydrogen can be produced locally using renewable energy. It can also be stored at an operating base with relative ease and without the need to provide complex charging networks. Turn-around times between sectors are similar to those achieved with fossil fuels, providing greater resilience to operations.
CAeS designs and manufactures new aircraft design concepts, complex modifications to existing aircraft and integration of cutting-edge technologies for some of the world's largest aerospace companies. The company is an established business with more than 90 staff and is one of very few aerospace SMEs globally to have both whole aircraft design capability and to hold a range of regulatory approvals for the design and manufacture of modifications to existing aircraft. It is based at Cranfield airport where it has access to some of the UK's most advanced aviation test and research facilities.