MTU Aero Engines has joined forces with the DLR German Aerospace Center to develop and validate a hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system that they believe could eventually power aircraft as large as the ubiquitous Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 narrowbody airliners. On August 5, the partners signed a memorandum of understanding that will lead to them developing an initial system to be tested on a Dornier Do228 twin-turboprop aircraft.
The combined engineering team will equip an existing 19-seat Do228 with a hydrogen fuel cell and a 500 kW electric propeller engine on one side of its wing. The other side of the wing will carry one of the aircraft’s two Garrett TPE331 engines.
The partners said they are aiming to achieve a first flight for this technology demonstrator in 2026. They have not published a more detailed timeline for the program.
DLR (the government-backed Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt) will manage the flight-test program and is also responsible for the integration and certification of the new propulsion system. The agency already has secured some financial support for the program from Bavarian state authorities.
MTU Aero Engines is Germany’s leading aircraft engine manufacturer. The Munich-based company has a long track record of developing low-pressure turbines, high-pressure compressors, and turbine center frames for turboprop, turbofan, and turboshaft powerplants.