Universal Hydrogen first test flight.
March 2, 2023
Universal Hydrogen conducted its first 15-minute test flight with a Dash-8 modified to operate on hydrogen fuel cells.
The Dash-8 is an aircraft capable of carrying 50 passengers over a short-haul distance. In the test configuration it was equipped with two 15 kg hydrogen tanks, an 800 kW fuel cell stack and an electric motor under one wing. As already happened for the recent ZeroAvia test flight, also in this case the propulsion was hybrid, with a Pratt and Whitney turboprop engine under the other wing.
A problem for this kind of propulsion is the stack cooling since fuel cells also produce heat that cannot be dispersed with the exhaust gases. However Universal Hydrogen adopted very large air ducts which seem to have solved this issue.
The real remaining problem is the density of hydrogen, very light, but very bulky. The test flight consumed about 16 kg of gaseous hydrogen and therefore the present tanks would have guaranteed an autonomy of less than half an hour. Universal Hydrogen therefore expects to switch to liquid hydrogen later this year.
Universal Hydrogen hopes to hit the market in 2025 with a propulsion system conversion kit.