Japan Airlines (JAL) is stepping up its efforts to introduce hydrogen-powered aircraft to its fleet, announcing partnerships this week with two propulsion system innovators, H2Fly and Universal Hydrogen. The Tokyo-based operator views a switch to hydrogen propulsion as a key part of its effort to achieve net zero carbon status by 2050.
Under a memorandum of understanding signed on November 16, JAL and its JAL Engineering division (JALEC) will collaborate with California-based Universal Hydrogen on the technical design and development of conversion kits that could be used to retrofit aircraft including ATR and Dash 8 twin turboprops.
The JAL team will focus in particular on reliability and maintainability issues, as well as on finding partners to produce and supply hydrogen fuel in modular capsules to be delivered directly to the aircraft under the Universal Hydrogen concept. Universal Hydrogen is flight-testing a Dash 8 technology demonstrator in the Mojave desert fueled with gaseous hydrogen.
“JAL and JALEC have completed one of the most rigorous evaluation processes we’ve seen to date to determine its sustainability partners and Universal Hydrogen is honored to be among those selected,” said the company’s chief commercial officer, Rod Williams. “JAL joins other major global airlines to be interested in Universal Hydrogen’s retrofit conversion kit solution to replace their regional fleet, and combined with our hydrogen ecosystem collaborations, we are bringing a complete solution to the JAL regional network.”
H2Fly Achieves Liquid Hydrogen Flight
On the same day, Germany-based H2Fly announced a similar partnership with JAL and JALEC to explore options for its hydrogen-electric powertrain technology. The agreement was signed two months after H2Fly completed the world’s first piloted liquid hydrogen-powered electric aircraft fight using its HY4 technology demonstrator.
The airline has yet to specify which of its aircraft might be operated with hydrogen. H2Fly believes that within a few years, its technology will be able to support aircraft carrying 40 passengers over distances of up to 2,000 kilometers (1,086 nm). Its system is based on a hydrogen-electric fuel cell system and liquid hydrogen tanks.
“We highly admire the outstanding technology of H2Fly,” commented JALEC president Ryo Tamura. “Through this partnership, we’re moving forward to the realization of hydrogen-powered flight in Japan. Our collaboration will lead and contribute to safe and sustainable aviation in Japan.”
Japan Airlines has already placed orders for Vertical Aerospace's in-development VX4 eVTOL aircraft. The carrier has also announced collaborations with Wisk and Volocopter.