Hydrogen fuel cell developer H2Fly plans to establish a Hydrogen Aviation Center at Germany’s Stuttgart Airport. The facility will be used to create hydrogen propulsion systems for airliners and is due to open in late 2024.
H2Fly, which is owned by U.S. eVTOL aircraft manufacturer Joby Aviation, will manage the facility and will make it available to other companies and scientific institutes working on zero-emissions hydrogen-electric technology. The project is receiving €5.5 million ($5.9 million) in funding from the transport ministry of the German state of Baden-Württemberg.
The Hydrogen Aviation Center will comprise a hangar with test stands, workshops, and space for installing and adapting aircraft propulsion systems. The facility, which is intended to support the development of megawatt-scale components and subsystems, will include space outdoors for testing demonstrator aircraft.
H2Fly is currently completing the integration of the fuel cells and liquid hydrogen storage tanks for its HY4 demonstrator aircraft that is due to begin ground testing this year. This aircraft has previously flown with pressurized gaseous hydrogen and the company believes that its sixth-generation powertrain could power 40-seat airliners on flights of up to around 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles).
In December, the European Commission (EC) appointed H2Fly to lead its Project Heaven initiative to develop hydrogen propulsion technology for airliners. Project Heaven is part of the EC’s Horizon 2020 research and development campaign to eliminate carbon emissions from air transport. It is jointly funded by the commission and the governments of Spain, France, Germany, and Slovenia. H2Fly is responsible for reporting the project’s results to the EC.
“Particularly in aviation, special efforts and innovations are vital if we are to achieve our ambitious climate targets,” commented Baden-Württemberg’s transport minister, Winfried Hermann. “Wherever battery-electric solutions aren’t possible for the foreseeable future, we’re backing new technological developments such as H2Fly, which Stuttgart Airport intends to advance. This entails setting up manufacturing facilities for renewably generated fuels, such as hydrogen and synthetic fuels. And this in turn requires a binding, investment-friendly legal framework from the EU.”
H2Fly is already working with Munich-based Deutsche Aircraft and has agreed to collaborate on plans to convert a 1990s-vintage Dornier 328 regional airliner to hydrogen power. The partners hope to start flight testing the former twin turboprop in 2025 and to achieve type certification for the planned D328eco model by the end of 2026. Deutsche Aircraft intends for its aircraft to run on Power2Liquid jet fuel made from green hydrogen.
In 2022, the HY4, powered by gaseous hydrogen, made a cross-country flight of 77 miles between Stuttgart and Friedrichshafen in southern Germany. It has also set what the company believes is a world altitude record for a hydrogen-powered aircraft by cruising at 7,230 feet.