The Exception to the Green Propulsion Rule

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By Bjorn Fehrm

November 30, 2023, © Leeham News: The interest in Green alternative propulsion for airliners started in earnest at Farnborough Air Show 2014, where Airbus flew the E-Fan battery-electric aircraft. What followed was a dense stream of alternative propulsion airliner projects.

They all have in common that nothing much has come out of them. We have a Pipistrel two-seat trainer that can fly for 50 minutes on batteries, but not much else. More elaborate projects have wide slips in their plans, and nine years later, we lack real prototypes for all projects.

We have functional models flying for nine-seat hybrids and 19/30-seat hydrogen fuel cell aircraft that swap one engine for a Green alternative. Of the latter, there is one project that stands out from the rest. It has shown real progress over the last years and has realistic plans for a 55-seat hydrogen airliner that can be operational in three to four years.

We will analyze why the Universal Hydrogen ATR fuel cell project is the exception to the "Green Propulsion Rule," that nothing comes out of all plans, and why it could be the first Green Propulsion airliner, ending a 10-year draught.

Figure 1. The Universal Hydrogen Dash 8-300 functional demonstrator. Source: Universal Hydrogen.

  • A Green Propulsion project means the airliner does not use hydrocarbon-burning (Kerosene or SAF) gas turbines.
  • The project that breaks the rule that nothing seems to reach practical use this side of 2030 is the Universal Hydrogen ATR project.

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