Plug-Powered airliner takes off at Washington State airport

The Universal Hydrogen airliner is powered by Plug’s ProGen line of fuel cells adapted for aviation application.

Plug Power Inc. a leading provider of turnkey hydrogen solutions for the global green hydrogen economy, announced the historic flight of a regional airliner powered by the company’s line of ProGen fuel cells.

Led by Universal Hydrogen, the hydrogen fuel cell-powered flying tested took off and made 15 minutes to a height of 3,500 feet MSL at Grant County International Airport in Washington State.

The 40-passenger airplane’s powertrain is built with Plug’s ProGen that have been adapted for aviation use. Plug’s ProGen fuel cells support light, medium and heavy-duty electric vehicles in asset-intensive applications. They have proven to be ideal because they allow fleets to achieve greater range. Fuel cells are also free of carbon emissions, and weigh and cost less than batteries.

“Plug is proud to be a part of Universal Hydrogen’s significant day in aviation history,” Andy Marsh said. “We’ve long said hydrogen can power applications, such as planes, while reducing toxic carbon emissions. Today, we proved it, and we’re one step closer to a more sustainable future.”

The celebrated day stems from Plug’s long-time partnership with Universal Hydrogen that expanded in 2021 to begin the development of fuel cells made for regional aircraft. The partnership is one of many strategic investments Plug has made in recent years to grow the green hydrogen economy and expand its applications, including into aviation.

“Our business model resolves the chicken-and-egg problem between hydrogen airplanes and hydrogen infrastructure by developing both in parallel and with a uniquely low-cost approach,” said Paul Eremenko. “The airplanes are converted to hydrogen using an aftermarket retrofit conversion kit, tackling the existing fleet rather than developing a brand new airplane. And hydrogen fueling uses modular capsules compatible with existing freight networks and airport cargo handling equipment, making every airport in the world hydrogen-ready.”

Conducted under an FAA Special Airworthiness Certificate, the flight was the first in a two-year flight test campaign expected to culminate in 2025 with entry into passenger service of ATR 72 regional aircraft in a 56-passenger configuration converted to run on hydrogen.

Engr. Haseeb Ullah

Haseeb covers the global energy market for both conventional and modern energy resources. His expertise is on the global energy supply chain from generation to distribution and end-users. He has a Master degree in Engineering Management and a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering.
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