The Anonymous Widower

Universal Hydrogen CEO Sees Jetmakers Backing New Fuel

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Reuters.

It is mainly predictions by Paul Eremenko, who is Chief Executive of Universal Hydrogen, about the future of the single-aisle jet airliner market.

I wrote in detail about their technology in Could Universal Hydrogen’s Concept Create A Hydrogen-Powered Single-Aisle Airliner?.

I firmly believe they have a concept that will work and look forward to flying in a hydrogen-powered aircraft using Universal Hydrogen’s technology before the end of the decade.

December 3, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Could Universal Hydrogen’s Concept Create A Hydrogen-Powered Single-Aisle Airliner?

Universal Hydrogen are making some of what I would consider the right moves.

Hydrogen Supply

Universal Hydrogen have signed a supply contract with Fortescue Future Industries for the supply of green hydrogen.

The deal is described in this press release on the FFI web site, which is entitled FFI And Universal Hydrogen Join Forces To Decarbonise Aviation.

Collaboration With Airbus

There is an article on BusinessWire, which is entitled Universal Hydrogen Announces New Engineering Development Center Located In Toulouse, France, The Heart of European Aviation.

Toulouse is the home of Airbus.

The Capsule Concept

The capsule concept could be universal.

These are widths of various planes and trains.

  • De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 – 2.52 metres – Internal
  • Airbus ATR 72 – 2.57 metres- Internal
  • Airbus A320neo – 3.7 metres – Internal
  • Boeing 737 – 3.53 metres – Internal
  • Class 800 train – 2.7 metres – External
  • Class 66 locomotive – 2.65 metres – External

I suspect that if the design is correct, then one size of capsule can be made to fit a variety of applications.

Application To Regional Aviation

I discussed this in Flybe Appears To Be On The Way Back.

I believe that De Havilland Canada Dash 8s and Airbus ATR 72s could be converted to hydrogen.

Road Transport

Surely, the capsules would be too big for road transport in the UK and many other countries.

But they would probably be ideal to deliver hydrogen to bus and truck depots and filling stations for hydrogen vehicles. They would just be plugged in and then could start dispensing the fuel.

Decarbonation Of Diesel Locomotives

Consider.

  • The cross-section of a diesel locomotive even in the UK, is larger than that of a regional airliner.
  • Most of the space in the body of a diesel locomotive is taken up by a large diesel engine.
  • Fuel ells or a small gas turbine could be small compared to the diesel engine.
  • Most existing diesel locomotives have electric transmissions.

I believe that many diesel-electric locomotives could be converted to hydrogen power and some could use Universal Hydrogen’s capsules.

Zero-Carbon Backup Generators

Many pieces of important infrastructure, like data centres, hospitals and large railway stations have backup generators.

Universal Hydrogen’s capsules could provide hydrogen for zero-carbon backup generators.

Universal Hydrogen’s Ideas For Single-Aisle Airliners

In the Product page on the Universal Hydrogen web site, there is a section, which is entitled Single Aisle / Narrowbody, where this is the first two sentences.

The majority of aviation emissions are produced by the single aisle (also known as narrowbody) fleet, dominated by the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 families of aircraft. Both Boeing and Airbus are likely to develop a replacement for these venerable models for entry into service in the mid 2030s.

Alongside the text is this graphic, which compares various airliners.

Universal Hydrogen are proposing that Airbus stretch the A321, so that hydrogen capsules can be fitted in the rear of the fuselage, so that the aircraft has similar proportions to the Boeing 757.

Read the full text on the Product page of the Universal Hydrogen web site.

I can see that if they could prove the concept with the Regional Airliner, they could develop the two concepts shown in the graphic.

Conclusion

This is a simple, but very exciting project.

 

 

December 2, 2021 Posted by | Design, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Flybe Appears To Be On The Way Back

I was alerted to the relaunch of the Flybe airline being a serious proposition by this article on the Birmingham Mail, which is entitled Watch As First Of 32 New Flybe Planes Lands At Birmingham Airport.

These are the first two paragraphs.

The first of Flybe’s more eco-friendly planes has landed in Birmingham ready for the launch of the airline’s new city HQ.

Part of a planned 32-aircraft fleet, the De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 turboprop touched down on the runway at Birmingham Airport on Friday.

The new Flybe will be based at Birmingham Airport and will have a fleet consisting of thirty-two De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 aircraft.

The De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400

Note these facts about the aircraft.

  1. According to Wikipedia, 645 aircraft have been ordered, with 587 having been delivered.
  2. Different variants can handle between 40 and 80 passengers.
  3. All aircraft delivered since 1996 are dubbed Q-Series and have active noise and vibration suppression, which is designed to improve the cabin ambience.
  4. A Dash 8-400 is also called a Q400.

But the most interesting development of the Dash 8 aircraft, is that developments are underway, so that the aircraft will be able to be powered by hydrogen.

Universal Hydrogen And A Hydrogen-Powered Q400

This article on Future Flight is entitled Universal Assembles Hydrogen Aircraft Conversion Team In Washington State.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Universal Hydrogen and its hydrogen fuel cell partner Plug Power are joining forces with electric motor specialists MagniX and AeroTec to set up a Hydrogen Aviation Test and Service Center at Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington. The partners will use the new facility to convert a Dash 8 regional airliner to hydrogen propulsion in time to start commercial operations in 2025. Flight testing is due to begin in 2022.

The new hydrogen powertrain will consist of an electric propulsion unit (EPU) developed by MagniX and fuel cells provided by Plug Power, which has extensive experience converting trucks to hydrogen. Seattle-based AeroTec will take the lead on converting the Dash 8s to hydrogen propulsion, conducting flight tests, and arranging for certification under FAA supplemental type certificates. The system installation work will be conducted at the Moses Lake facility.

This paragraph gives details of the design.

The hydrogen-powered Dash 8 aircraft, which carry between 41 and 60 passengers, will be able to operate on routes of up to around 625 miles. Universal Hydrogen’s plan calls for the fuel to be delivered directly to aircraft in capsules that are installed in a compartment at the rear of the fuselage.

These are my thoughts on the design.

Power Required

Wikipedia says this about the engines of the Dash 8-400 (Q400).

The Series 400 uses Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150A engines rated at 4,850 shp (3,620 kW).

This means that the aircraft will need fuel cells capable of delivering over 7 MW.

This data sheet on the Plug Power web site, says that the company has fuel cells  up to 125 KW, which weigh 350 Kg and need a cooling module, that weighs a further 103 Kg. Scaling up shows the power unit could weigh around 25.4 tonnes.

As the maximum take-off weight of a Q400 is around 30.5 tonnes, this wouldn’t leave much weight for the airframe, the two electric motors and propellers, the hydrogen and the passengers and their luggage.

It would appear that Plug Power must be using some form of lighter-weight fuel cell.

Or could they be using an appropriately-sized gas turbine generator from Pratt & Whitney Canada?

It should be noted that a Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150A engine, weighs under a tonne and generates over 3.5 MW.

Obviously, they wouldn’t be developing the plane, if they hadn’t figured out how to generate enough electricity to get it off the ground.

The Hydrogen Capsules

The Product page on the Universal Hydrogen web site is revealing.

This paragraph from the Product page describes how they would convert Regional Aircraft to Hydrogen.

Our first product is a conversion kit for existing regional aircraft, starting with the ATR72 and the De Havilland Canada Dash-8, to fly on hydrogen. This consists of a fuel cell electric powertrain that replaces the existing turboprop engines. It also accommodates, in the rear of the fuselage, our proprietary, lightweight, modular hydrogen capsules that are transported from green hydrogen production sites to the airport and loaded directly into the aircraft using the existing intermodal freight network and cargo handling equipment. By providing both an aircraft conversion solution for the existing fleet and a fuel services offering directly to regional airlines, we will be in passenger service with zero emissions by 2025 and in cargo service shortly thereafter.

Note.

  1. The cutaway on the Product page of a De Havilland Canada Dash-8, which has three capsules in the rear fuselage.
  2. The cutaway shows forty seats in the aircraft.
  3. If you scroll the pictures, you’ll see the design of the capsule.
  4. The product can be used to convert two regional airliners both of which are in production.
  5. Airports will need no new infrastructure to handle the hydrogen.

Universal Hydrogen has also signed a deal with Fortescue Future Industries to supply green hydrogen to fill the capsules.

 Are A First Flight In 2022 And An in-Service Date Of 2025 Over Ambitious?

The article in Future Flight says this.

AeroTec will take the lead on converting the Dash 8s to hydrogen propulsion, conducting flight tests, and arranging for certification under FAA supplemental type certificates.

FAA Supplemental Type Certificates are outlined on this page on the FAA web site, where this introductory paragraph is given.

A supplemental type certificate (STC) is a type certificate (TC) issued when an applicant has received FAA approval to modify an aeronautical product from its original design. The STC, which incorporates by reference the related TC, approves not only the modification but also how that modification affects the original design.

They are a much-used and well-proven method to update aircraft for new purposes and new power units.

I suspect that going this route will enable Q400 and ATR 72 aircraft will be flying on hydrogen by 2025.

How Far Will A Range Of 625 Miles Take The Plane From Birmingham?

I have used the Air Miles Calculator to calculate distances in miles from Birmingham.

  • Amsterdam Schiphol – 276
  • Barcelona – 791
  • Belfast City 225
  • Berlin Schönefeld – 644
  • Biarritz – 621
  • Bilbao – 635
  • Bordeaux – 529
  • Cologne – 397
  • Copenhagen – 624
  • Cork – 290
  • Dublin – 200
  • Dusseldorf – 373
  • Edinburgh – 251
  • Frankfurt – 452
  • Geneva – 556
  • Glasgow – 260
  • Hamburg – 495
  • Inverness – 364
  • Jersey – 225
  • Kirkwall – 474
  • Lerwick – 536
  • Lyon – 558
  • Munich – 660
  • Newcastle – 179
  • Newquay – 198
  • Nice – 735
  • Oslo – 726
  • Paris-Charles de Gaulle – 303
  • Paris-Orly – 315
  • Rotterdam – 265
  • Strasbourg – 494

Note.

  1. It might be possible to serve some routes without refuelling at the other end.
  2. Some routes could be paired for efficiency and still be well below 600 miles.
  3. The large intercontinental airports of Amsterdam Schiphol, Frankfurt and Paris-Charles de Gaulle should be reached easily.
  4. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport has a well-connected railway station.
  5. Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport has a TGV station.
  6. Frankfurt Airport has a long distance railway station on the Cologne-Frankfurt high speed line.
  7. If you’re flying to the South of France or Switzerland, it looks like flying from London City Airport is about a hundred miles shorter.

It would appear that the range of 625 miles could be very useful, especially if you use a long distance train at both ends of the flight.

I can certainly understand why Flybe has chosen Birmingham as its main base.

 

Will Flybe Convert Their Aircraft To Hydrogen?

This is obviously up to the company, but if they don’t, someone else will and Flybe will lose their regional market in the UK.

Conclusion

I think those behind the new Flybe could be looking to create the UK’s first zero-carbon airline.

December 2, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

ZEROe – Towards The World’s First Zero-Emission Commercial Aircraft

The title of this post, is the same as that of this Press Release from Airbus.

This is the introductory paragraph.

At Airbus, we have the ambition to develop the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft by 2035. Hydrogen propulsion will help us to deliver on this ambition. Our ZEROe concept aircraft enable us to explore a variety of configurations and hydrogen technologies that will shape the development of our future zero-emission aircraft.

Overall, the Press Release discloses a lot and gives details of three different aircraft, which are shown in this Airbus infographic.

Discover the three zero-emission concept aircraft known as ZEROe in this infographic. These turbofan, turboprop, and blended-wing-body configurations are all hydrogen hybrid aircraft.

I have some thoughts that apply to all three concepts.

Hydrogen Hybrid Power

The Press Release says this about the propulsion systems for the three aircraft.

All three ZEROe concepts are hydrogen hybrid aircraft. They are powered by hydrogen combustion through modified gas-turbine engines. Liquid hydrogen is used as fuel for combustion with oxygen.

In addition, hydrogen fuel cells create electrical power that complements the gas turbine, resulting in a highly efficient hybrid-electric propulsion system. All of these technologies are complementary, and the benefits are additive.

There is a Wikipedia entry which is entitled Hydrogen Fuel, where this is said.

Once produced, hydrogen can be used in much the same way as natural gas – it can be delivered to fuel cells to generate electricity and heat, used in a combined cycle gas turbine to produce larger quantities of centrally produced electricity or burned to run a combustion engine; all methods producing no carbon or methane emissions.

It looks like the aircraft will be powered by engines that are not too different to the current engines in today’s aircraft.

This must be a big advantage, in that much of the research done to improve the current gas-turbine powered by aviation fuel will apply.

Liquid Hydrogen

It appears all three aircraft will use liquid hydrogen.

Liquid Hydrogen Storage

I believe the major uses for hydrogen will be aircraft, buses, cars, rail locomotives and multiple units and heavy trucks.

All will need efficient storage of the hydrogen.

Some applications, will use it in liquid form, as it is a more dense form, but it will need to be kept cold.

As aviation will probably be the most demanding application, will it drive the storage technology?

Oxygen

This will be atmospheric oxygen, which is used by any combustion engine.

Fuel Cells

Will the fuel cells be used to provide power for the plane’s systems, rather than to power the aircraft?

Most airlines do this with an auxiliary power unit or APU, which is just a small gas-turbine engine with a generator. The A 320 family use one made by Pratt & Whitney, which is described on this page of their web site. It is the third one on the page and is called a APS3200. This is said about its function.

Pratt & Whitney APS3200 is the Airbus baseline APU of choice for the Airbus A320 family of aircraft. It is designed to meet performance and environmental requirements for modern day, single-aisle aircraft. The APU comprises a single-shaft, fixedspeed, high-pressure ratio core driving a load compressor that provides bleed air for cabin conditioning and main engine starting, concurrent with 90kVA of electrical power.

The APU is usually located in the tail.

In the ZEROe family will there be a fuel-cell powered compressor to provide bleed air for cabin airconditioning and main engine starting?

Slippery Aerodynamics

Airbus seem to be the masters of slippery aerodynamics, which will help make the planes very fuel efficient.

Lightweight Composite Structures

Like the latest Airbus airliners, these planes will be made from lightweight composite structures and I wouldn’t be surprised to see weight saving in other parts of the aircraft.

Carbon Emissions And Pollution

There will be no carbon dioxide produced, as where’s the carbon in the fuel?

But there could be small amounts of the oxides of nitrogen produced, by the combustion, as nitrogen will be present from the air.

Noise

As the aircraft are powered by gas-turbine engines, there will be some noise.

The Mathematics Of Hydrogen-Powered Aviation

The mathematics for these three aircraft must say, that the designs are feasible.

Otherwise Airbus wouldn’t have published a detailed Press Release, only for it to be torn to pieces.

Pressures Driving Aviation In The Next Ten Years

Aviation will change in the text ten years and it will be driven by various competing forces.

Environmental Issues

Pollution, Carbon Emissions and Noise will be the big environmental issues.

Hydrogen will go a long way to reducing the first two issues, but progress with noise will generally be made by better engineering.

COVID-19 And Future Pandemics

These could have a bigger effect, as to make flying safe in these troubled times, passengers will need to be given more space.

But I do wonder, if there is an administrative solution, backed up, by innovative engineering.

Could a very quick test for COVID-19, that would stop infected passengers boarding, coupled with high quality automatic cleaning and air purification, ensure that passengers didn’t get infected?

Entry Into Service

Airbus are quoting 2035 in the Press Release and this YouTube video.

Is that ambitious?

Thoughts On The Three Designs

My thoughts on the three designs, follow in the next three sections.

The ZEROe Turboprop

This is Airbus’s summary of the design for the ZEROe Turboprop.

Two hybrid hydrogen turboprop engines, which drive the six bladed propellers, provide thrust. The liquid hydrogen storage and distribution system is located behind the rear pressure bulkhead.

This screen capture taken from the video, shows the plane.

It certainly is a layout that has been used successfully, by many conventionally-powered aircraft in the past. The De Havilland Canada Dash 8 and ATR 72 are still in production.

The Turboprop Engines

If you look at the Lockheed-Martin C 130J Super Hercules, you will see it is powered by four Rolls-Royce AE 2100D3 turboprop engines, that drive 6-bladed Dowty R391 composite constant-speed fully-feathering reversible-pitch propellers.

These Rolls-Royce engines are a development of an Allison design, but they also form the heart of Rolls-Royce’s 2.5 MW Generator, that I wrote about in Our Sustainability Journey. The generator was developed for use in Airbus’s electric flight research program.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find the following.

  • , The propulsion system for this aircraft is under test with hydrogen at Derby and Toulouse.
  • Dowty are testing propellers suitable for the aircraft.
  • Serious research is ongoing to store enough liquid hydrogen in a small tank that fits the design.

Why develop something new, when Rolls-Royce, Dowty and Lockheed have done all the basic design and testing?

The Fuselage

This screen capture taken from the video, shows the front view of the plane.

From clues in the picture, I estimate that the fuselage diameter is around four metres. Which is not surprising, as the Airbus A320 has a height of 4.14 metres and a with of 3.95 metres.

So is the ZEROe Turboprop based on a shortened Airbus A 320 fuselage?

As the aircraft has a capacity of less than a hundred passengers and an Airbus A320 has six-abreast seating, could the aircraft have sixteen rows of seats.

With the seat pitch of an Airbus A 320, which is 81 centimetres, this means just under thirteen metres for the passengers.

The Technical Challenge

I don’t feel there are any great technical challenges in building this aircraft.

  • The engines appear to be conventional and could even have been more-or-less fully developed.
  • The fuselage could be a development of an existing design.
  • The wings and tail-plane are not large and given the company’s experience with large composite structures, they shouldn’t be too challenging.
  • The hydrogen storage and distributing system will have to be designed, but as hydrogen is being used in increasing numbers of applications, I doubt the expertise will be difficult to find.
  • The avionics and other important systems could probably be borrowed from other Airbus products.

Given that the much larger and more complicated Airbus A380 was launched in 2000 and first flew in 2005, I think that a prototype of this aircraft could fly around the middle of this decade.

The Market Segment

It may seem small at less than a hundred seats, but it does have a range of greater than a 1000 nautical miles or 1150 miles.

Consider.

  • It compares closely in passenger capacity, speed and range, with the De Havilland Canada Dash 8/400 and the ATR 72/600.
  • The ATR 72 is part produced by Airbus.
  • The aircraft is forty percent slower than an Airbus A 320.
  • It is a genuine zero-carbon aircraft.
  • It looks like it could be designed to have a Short-Takeoff-And Landing (STOL) capability.

On the other hand, a lot of busy routes, like London and Edinburgh and Berlin and Munich are less than or around 400 miles.

These short routes are being challenged aggressively by the rail industry, as over this sort of distance, which typically takes four hours by train, rail has enough advantages, that passengers may choose not to fly.

Examples of cities with a range of between 400 and 1000 miles from London include.

  • Berlin – 571 miles
  • Cork – 354 miles
  • Inverness – 445 miles
  • Lisbon – 991 miles
  • Madrid – 781 miles
  • Palma – 835 miles
  • Rome – 893 miles
  • Stockholm – 892 miles
  • Warsaw – 900 miles

This aircraft would appear to be sized as an aircraft, that can fly further than passengers are happy to travel by train. But because of its cruising speed, the routes, where it will be viable would probably be limited in duration.

But important routes to, from and between secondary locations, like those that used to be flown by FlyBe, would surely be naturals for this aircraft.

It looks to be an aircraft that could have a big future.

The ZEROe Turbofan

This is Airbus’s summary of the design.

Two hybrid hydrogen turbofan engines provide thrust. The liquid hydrogen storage and distribution system is located behind the rear pressure bulkhead.

This screen capture taken from the video, shows the plane.

ZEROeTurbofan

This screen capture taken from the video, shows the front view of the plane.

The aircraft doesn’t look very different different to an Airbus A320 and appears to be fairly conventional. It does appear to have the characteristic tall winglets of the A 320 neo.

The Turbofan Engines

These would be standard turbofan engines modified to run on hydrogen, fuelled from a liquid hydrogen tank behind the rear pressure bulkhead of the fuselage.

If you want to learn more about gas turbine engines and hydrogen, read this article on the General Electric web site, which is entitled The Hydrogen Generation: These Gas Turbines Can Run On The Most Abundant Element In the Universe,

Range And Performance

I will compare range, performance and capacity with the latest Airbus A 320.

ZEROe Turbofan

  • Range – 2300 miles
  • Cruising Speed – Mach 0.78
  • Capacity – < 200 passengers

Airbus A 320

  • Range – 3800 miles
  • Cruising Speed – Mach 0.82
  • Capacity – 190 passengers

There is not too much difference, except that the A 320 has a longer range.

The Cockpits Of The ZEROe Turboprop And The ZEROe Turbofan

This gallery puts the two cockpit images together.

Are they by any chance related?

Could the controls and avionics in both aircraft be the same?

A quick look says that like the Boeing 757 and 767, the two planes have a lot in common, which may enable a pilot trained on one aircraft to fly the other, with only minimal extra instruction.

And would it be a simple process to upgrade a pilot from an A 320 to a ZEROe Turbofan?

The Fuselages Of The ZEROe Turboprop And The ZEROe Turbofan

I estimated earlier that the fuselage of the Turboprop was based on the cross-section of the A320.

Looking at the pair of front views, I wouldn’t be surprised to find, that both aircraft are based on an updated A 320 fuselage design.

Passengers and flightcrew would certainly feel at home in the ZEROe Turbofan, if internally, it was the same size, layout and equipment as a standard A 320 or more likely an A 320 neo.

The Market Segment

These are my thoughts of the marketing objectives of the ZEROe Turbofan.

  • The cruising speed and the number of passengers are surprisingly close, so has this aircraft been designed as an A 320 or Boeing 737 replacement?
  •  I suspect too, that it has been designed to be used at any airport, that could handle an Airbus A 320 or Boeing 737.
  • It would be able to fly point-to-point flights between most pairs of European or North American cities.

It would certainly fit the zero-carbon shorter range airliner market!

In fact it would more than fit the market, it would define it!

The ZEROe Blended-Wing Body

This is Airbus’s summary of the design.

The exceptionally wide interior opens up multiple options for hydrogen storage and distribution. Here, the liquid hydrogen storage tanks are stored underneath the wings. Two hybrid hydrogen turbofan engines provide thrust.

This screen capture taken from the video, shows the plane.

This aircraft is proposed to have the same performance and capacity as the ZEROe Turbofan, which includes a 2000 nautical mile plus range.

The only other aircraft with a similar shape is the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit or Stealth Bomber. This is not a fast aircraft, but it is able to fly at an altitude of 50,000 ft, which compares to the 60,000 ft of Concorde and the 43,000 ft of an Airbus A 380.

I wonder, if the blended-wing body is designed to fly very high at around the 60,000 ft, which was Concorde territory.

It would only be doing 515 mph and would be well below the speed of sound.

So what is the point on going so high?

The air is very thin and there is a lot less drag.

It is also worth reading Wikipedia on the design of flying wings.

It might be possible to fly much further than 2000 nautical miles. After all Airbus did put in a plus sign!

Is this aircraft the long-distance aircraft of the three?

Extending The Range

I do wonder, if the engines in these aircraft could be capable of running on both hydrogen and aviation biofuel.

As the ZEROe Turboprop and the ZEROe Turbofan planes have empty wings, which in a conventional aircraft would hold fuel, could the space be used to hold aviation biofuel to extend the range?

Certification Of The Planes

The ZEROe Turboprop and ZEROe Turbofan are aircraft, where a lot of the design will already have been proven in previous aircraft, so will probably be much less onerous to approve, than the blended-wing body design.

Conclusion

It looks to me, that Airbus have designed three aircraft to cover the airline market.

I also feel that as the ZEROe Turboprop and ZEROe Turbofan, appear to have conventional airframes, that they could be delivered before 2035.

If I’m right, that the blended-wing body is a high flyer, it will be a ride to experience, travelling at that height all the way to New York.

September 22, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments