Hydrogen air travel takes a step closer to reality

Sergey Kiselev (ZeroAvia) and Simon Richards (BHX) at Kemble

A new partnership set to deliver zero-emission, hydrogen-powered air travel, has been formed at Birmingham Airport.

ZeroAvia and the airport are looking to make on-airfield hydrogen refueling and regular domestic passenger flights of zero-emission aircraft a reality in the coming years.

The zero-emission technology developer successfully flew a prototype at its base in Kemble in January. The aircraft uses hydrogen in fuel cells to generate electricity, which is then used to power electric motors to turn the aircraft’s propellers. The only emission is water.

ZeroAvia, which has £150m of backing from Amazon, Bill Gates, British Airways and Shell, hopes to be operating passenger services to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Belfast, Isle of Man and Dublin by the middle of this decade.

It’s currently working on bringing to market a zero-emission system capable of flying 20-seat aircraft 300 nautical miles by 2025.

In a move that would make zero-emission travel to Mediterranean holiday destinations a reality, ZeroAvia is also aiming to get an emissions-free 80-seat aircraft flying up to 1,000 nautical miles by 2027.

Under the government’s current net zero plan, it wants all UK domestic flights to be zero-emission by 2040.

For BHX, the partnership with ZeroAvia sits alongside its own journey to become a net-zero-carbon airport by 2033, as outlined in its ‘carbon roadmap’ published last year. The airport plans to use an area on its airfield for hydrogen refueling infrastructure, testing and operations.

Arnab Chatterjee, VP of infrastructure at ZeroAvia said: “Birmingham Airport can be a central hub in a green flight network in the UK, given that any domestic mainland destination will be reachable from the airport using our first systems in 2025.

“Given the commitments of the Jet Zero Strategy on domestic aviation, it is fantastic to engage with forward-thinking airports that want to be early innovators and developers to deliver the vision of bringing truly clean, quiet and pollution-free flights to the UK.”

Simon Richards, Chief Finance & Sustainability Officer at BHX, said: “We are thrilled to partner with ZeroAvia on creating solutions to the main challenge of our generation – protecting the future of our planet. We could, quite conceivably, see the first hydrogen-powered domestic passenger flight taking off from BHX in the UK in the next few years. That’s mind-blowing.”