Monday, September 25, 2023

Alaska Airlines joins forces with ZeroAvia to develop the world’s largest zero-emission aircraft

The aviation industry is a significant contributor to global carbon emissions. Therefore, zero-emission planes are essential for decarbonizing the aviation industry. Airlines are already experimenting with sustainable aviation fuels, including biofuels and synthetic fuels.

American Alaska Airlines collaborates with ZeroAvia to develop the world’s largest zero-emission aircraft. Alaska Airlines Bombardier Q400, also known as Dash 8-400, is a regional turboprop with 76 seats. When Alaska Airlines’ regional carrier Horizon Air retired its Q400 fleet, they reserved one aircraft for research and development purposes to further advance zero-emissions technology for the aviation industry.

This aircraft is retrofitted with ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-electric propulsion system to expand the reach and applicability of zero-emissions flight technology.

California-based ZeroAvia is developing a hydrogen-electric powertrain for aviation. The hydrogen-electric engine uses fuel cells to generate electricity from hydrogen fuel before using that electricity to power electric motors that turn the aircraft’s propellers.

At the event at ZeroAvia’s Paine Field research and development site, ZeroAvia also unveiled the world’s most advanced electric motor technology for aviation, paving the way for hydrogen-electric engines for the Dash 8 and similar airframes. Its successful multi-megawatt modular electric motor system in a prototype configuration of 1.8MW is demonstrated in ZeroAvia’s 15-tonne hyper truck ground-test rig with propeller spin.

Demonstration of ZeroAvia's engine on hyper truck ground-test rig with propeller spin
Demonstration of ZeroAvia’s engine on the hyper truck ground-test rig. Credit: Alaska Airlines

Combined with high-temperature PEM fuel cells and advanced power electronics – both technologies that ZeroAvia is developing in-house – leading-edge electric motor technology is one of three key building blocks to enable commercially-relevant hydrogen fuel cell engines for large aircraft.

Aligning ZeroAvia’s powertrain with the Dash 8-400 airframe will represent a commercially viable zero-emissions aircraft with fuel cell engine technology nearly five times more potent than anything demonstrated anywhere.

ZeroAvia is focused on hydrogen-electric aviation, initially targeting a 300-mile range in 9–19 seat aircraft by 2025 and up to a 700-mile range in 40–80 seat aircraft by 2027.

This partnership between Alaska Airlines and ZeroAvia will pave the way to a green future in the aviation industry.