Los Angeles-based Universal Hydrogen has approved letters of intent with Icelandair Group, Air Nostrum, and Ravn Alaska to reconfigure over 15 ATR 72 and De Havilland Canada Dash 8 regional turboprops with hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion technology, according to a press release from Universal Hydrogen. This involves replacing the aircraft’s turboprop engines and jet fuel tanks with Magnix electric motors and fuel cells compatible with Universal Hydrogen’s modular hydrogen fuel storage tanks, which are manufactured by Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, Connecticut, United States.
The Core Of The Modular Capsules:
To address the hydrogen infrastructure problem, Universal Hydrogen has developed modular capsules with a logistics system that can be easily refuelled and transported via the worldwide intermodal-container shipping network and installed onto aeroplanes at the airport before takeoff. The twin tanks are housed within a skeletal image to generate the storage modules. They will first employ carbon fibre to retain compressed hydrogen gas before transitioning to metallic tanks to store hydrogen fuel until development is finished. Universal Hydrogen will also be the three airlines’ long-term source of renewable hydrogen.
LOI Of Icelandair:
Universal Hydrogen and Icelandair Group have signed a letter of intent (LOI) to pursue the use of green hydrogen as a fuel for Icelandair’s domestic aircraft fleet.
With its aftermarket hydrogen conversion kit for regional aircraft, as well as its fuel delivery system based on modular hydrogen capsule technology, Universal Hydrogen enables this transition.
For this duo, this letter of intent is the first stage in an ambitious international project that will involve collaboration with Icelandic hydrogen producers, transportation firms, and airports. This provides a chance to decarbonize one of the toughest industries—aviation—in a nation with an electrical network driven by renewable energy.
To furnish Icelandair’s fleet with cost-effective green hydrogen, the two companies would engage in a long-term fuel services contract upon successful completion of the project and completion of the Dash 8 conversions of its domestic aircraft. The overall result of this association is that operational efficiencies are realized when sustainability goals are met.
LOI of Air Nostrum:
Air Nostrum, a regional airline in Valencia, Spain, has signed a letter of intent to acquire eleven of Universal Hydrogen’s turboprop conversion kits for use on its present and future fleet. An electric motor and hydrogen fuel cell replace the aircraft’s current turboprop engine in these kits. This enables interoperability with Universal Hydrogen’s modular hydrogen capsule technology, which allows for the transport of hydrogen to just about any airport with no specialized infrastructure.
Paul Eremenko, co-founder and CEO of Universal Hydrogen, said, “We’re pleased to be working with Air Nostrum to assist them decarbonize their fleet. As a result of this gutsy move, they are in the forefront of European regional airlines in taking the genuine effort to attain absolute zero emissions.”
Besides the aircraft conversions, Universal Hydrogen would become Air Nostrum’s long-term provider of green hydrogen services for the company. Upon completion of an operational review of the design and performance, Air Nostrum’s turboprop aircraft will be converted to a Universal Hydrogen-powered, zero-carbon configuration. This fleet is projected to have the same or superior unit economics as the present fleet, according to the company’s estimates.
LOI of Ravn Air:
As part of this agreement, Ravn has promised to purchase five of Universal Hydrogen’s conversion kits, which will incorporate the company’s modular hydrogen capsule technology and hydrogen engine into Ravn’s expanding regional turboprop fleet. The modifications will provide a zero-carbon solution for both passenger and freight services in a transportation segment that is vital to Alaska’s lifestyle.
As per sources, the Dash-8’s cabin area will be reduced from 56 to 40, but it will be able to drive up to 460 miles emitting zero pollutants (740 kilometres). According to Universal Hydrogen, the present range of Dash-8s covers around 75% of current routes, and that coverage may increase to 95% of current routes once liquid hydrogen can be made available.
Points to note:
While this appears to be excellent news for clean aviation, there are reasons to slow down the hype train here. Preliminary Letters of Intent (LOIs) are non-binding and frequently very tentative.
In addition, one company involved, Ravn Alaska, is only a year out of bankruptcy, and its new owners have signed a letter of intent (LOI) for 50 electric STOL aircraft from Airflow and told employees in a leaked briefing that it was also planning to run a low-cost carrier using Boeing 757 aircraft. But achieving all these goals will take a lot of money to make them happen.
Although Icelandair President and CEO Nils Bogason believe these projects come to fruition, and Universal can “bring hydrogen-powered Dash-8s to the skies in the next several years,” it would be a major milestone in this incredibly interesting new technology, and there will be plenty of passengers willing to make the switch to a greener alternative.