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Mitsubishi and ZeroAvia to collaborate on design & development of hydrogen-electric technology for regional jets

MHI RJ Aviation Group (MHIRJ), a wholly owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and the world’s largest CRJ Series Aircraft Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul company, and ZeroAvia, an innovator in hydrogen-electric propulsion for aviation (earlier post), signed an agreement to cooperate in developing hydrogen-electric propulsion for regional jet applications.

The collaboration with MHIRJ will leverage ZeroAvia’s hydrogen fuel cell powertrain technology and MHIRJ’s aircraft design, certification and support experience to create aircraft solutions which not only have the potential to deliver new aircraft with hydrogen-electric propulsion but also to efficiently retrofit existing aircraft in the market.

According to the MOU, MHIRJ will be supporting ZeroAvia by providing engineering services in support of the certification of the engines to PART 33 for aircraft, as well as assisting ZeroAvia by providing advisory services evaluating the feasibility of a green retrofit program for regional aircraft.

This marks a crucial step in ZeroAvia’s progress and entry into a wider market. The company has completed more than 35 test flights of a Piper M-class six-seat aircraft using its hydrogen fuel cell powertrain. Currently, it is working to convert a larger 19-seat Dornier 228 aircraft with its zero-emission powertrain with a first test flight expected in the coming months.

ZeroAvia plans certification and market entry for its 19-seat powertrain by 2024, with an eye towards larger aircraft (50-80 seats) by 2026, and regional jets around 2028.

Developing aviation solutions for the future requires a re-assessment of their environmental impact and developing new technologies to ensure that aviation lives up to the commitments required to meet carbon reduction targets. At MHIRJ we are working with propulsion innovators to ensure that we are at the forefront of such developments and can design solutions to move the world forward.

Regional aircraft are key to keeping smaller communities and regions connected and are also more able to exploit the new technologies on the horizon than larger aircraft and, therefore this is a logical place for this development to begin and we are proud to be a part of this innovative solution.

—Hiro Yamamoto, President and CEO of MHIRJ

Based in the UK and USA, ZeroAvia has already secured experimental certificates for two prototype aircraft from the CAA and FAA, passed significant flight test milestones, and is on track for commercial operations in 2024. The company’s expanding UK operations are supported by grants from UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute and Innovate UK, and ZeroAvia is part of the UK Prime Minister’s Jet Zero Council.



If we can get reliable rechargeable lithium sulfur batteries with 700 to 900 Whr/kg, which I think will happen, we will be able to have battery electric and commuter and, likely, regional aircraft that will be more energy efficient and cheaper on a seat-mile basis. The ultimate driver will be economics.


Battery electric is fine for what it can do, but 400Wh/kg is more than we can do at the moment.

Hydrogen although way off for the big intercontinental is in the ballpark for short haul with reasonable payload.

Magic batteries will be lovely if and when they arrive, in the meantime we have working alternatives.


Currently the density figures are reaching 560 Wh/kg; but, still in the Lab:


Lithium anode can do this but with fewer cycles


Will have to see where Lyten and others are with their lithium sulfur batteries. I am one of the faculty advisors for an electric FormulaSAE team (Formula Student in the UK and Europe) so I recently inquired as to the possibility of getting some sample cells and then when we might be able to buy enough cells for a 6-8 kWhr battery. They were supposed to start manufacturing a limited number of cells Q4 this year. Hopefully, Lyten does not follow Oxis into bankruptcy.

One of the problems with a battery electric plane is that you really need to design the plane around the batteries. Currently Bye Aerospace is designing an 8-place commuter aircraft and Eviation is designing the 11-place Alice battery electric aircraft. With fuel cells, you might get away with modifying an existing aircraft by removing some of the seats and installing the hydrogen tanks. The overall weight of the hydrogen tanks should be less than batteries but the operating expenses will be far higher which is why I expect that battery electric will win for shorter range commuter and eventually regional aircraft.


Poor old Mitsubishi. Repeatedly sabotaged in their effort to get the MRJ to market, including being rammed on the ground at Farnborough so it could not fly display flights. Now it's far far too late. If you really want to do something Mitsubishi please do something actually innovative and dump the tube fuselage which crumples and kills everyone in a crash and develop a lifting fuselage design as pioneered by Victor Burnelli who got exactly the same treatment as you for his entire life. Payload HIGHER than the empty weight. No other type of aircraft can do that. And it protects the occupants in a crash so they live. And at least 20% more fuel efficient. Etc.

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