Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Universal Hydrogen successfully runs a MW-class fuel cell powertrain

Universal Hydrogen has successfully run a megawatt-class fuel cell powertrain using its proprietary liquid hydrogen module to supply the fuel. This is the largest fuel cell powertrain ever to run on liquid hydrogen. Mark Cousin, the company’s president & CTO, mentioned that this achievement is another in a series of ‘firsts’ for Universal Hydrogen.

The liquid hydrogen module powered the company’s “iron bird” ground test rig for over 1 hour and 40 minutes, simulating a regional aircraft flight profile. The iron bird is a functional analog of the powertrain that Universal Hydrogen has been flight testing since March 2023.

The liquid hydrogen module can hold fuel to power the iron bird for over three hours at full power, and two of these modules can provide 500 nautical miles of usable range (on top of reserves) for an ATR72 regional airliner. This demonstration, which took place at the Mojave Air & Space Port, is the first time the company’s module and powertrain have been integrated together, marking a significant achievement on the path toward entry into passenger service, which is planned for 2026.

Universal Hydrogen’s liquid hydrogen module is the core of the company’s fuel services offering for aviation. It was developed at their engineering and design center in Toulouse, France. This module internalizes all the complexity of managing cryogenic hydrogen while externally presenting a simple container interface that is compatible with existing intermodal freight and airport cargo handling equipment.

The module has the capacity to store around 200 kilograms of liquid hydrogen for long durations without boiloff. It also includes systems to convert cryogenic liquid hydrogen into warm gaseous hydrogen that is consumed by the powertrain. Safety features such as hydrogen leak detection and venting systems are incorporated for safe operations, and a leak-proof quick-connect is provided for easy installation and removal of the module from the aircraft.

“This end-to-end demonstration of a hydrogen molecule moving from our filler/dispenser into our storage module and then into our powertrain is the first time that all the pieces of our product portfolio for regional aviation have come together,” said Paul Eremenko, co-founder and CEO of Universal Hydrogen. “The next step is to upgrade our flight testbed to fly the powertrain fueled by our modules.”