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ZeroAvia, MHIRJ 1st phase technical study confirms feasibility of hydrogen-electric CRJ aircraft

ZeroAvia announced that it has identified clear applications for hydrogen-electric, zero-emission propulsion for regional jet aircraft. As part of the initial technical study conducted alongside Type Certificate holder MHIRJ over the last year, an initial entry-point for a CRJ 700 retrofit with ZeroAvia’s ZA 2000RJ powertrain—confirming maximum takeoff weight, center of gravity and structural allowances—has been identified. (Earlier post.)

The study also validates the retrofit approach for other in-service CRJ series aircraft, such as the CRJ 550 and 900.

ZA-CRJ700-Mountain-Airport-Landing 2

The hydrogen-electric CRJ aircraft would be equipped with two ZeroAvia regional jet engines (derivatives of the ZA2000 engine class) to match the existing performance. ZeroAvia analysis suggests it could support up to 60 passengers with a range of up to 560 nautical miles, covering in excess of 80% of current flights.

​ The study identified good opportunities for onboard hydrogen fuel storage and powertrain integration to ensure preservation of aircraft aerodynamics. Critically, the system would drastically reduce operating costs by virtue of hydrogen fuel use and reduced maintenance costs, creating opportunities for new routes, as well as more flights on existing routes to match or increase passenger volumes.

​ The technical assessment identified that the loss of turbine core thrust could be overcome within the constraints of the original airframe with increased fan diameter, while further efficiency gains were possible by adopting novel propulsor technologies such as geared, ducted electric fan or open rotor designs.

​ The assumptions based on the phase 1 study included HTPEM fuel cell system specific power of 2.4 kW/kg. ZeroAvia has already demonstrated 2.5 kW/kg at the cell level of its HTPEM stacks, and plans to deliver 3 kW/kg system level specific within two years. Such an achievement would boost the operating characteristics of the envisaged hydrogen-electric CRJ.

​ The CRJ is already the world’s most successful family of regional aircraft. There are more than 1,400 CRJ Series aircraft that could potentially be converted to fly with the ZA2000 engine.

At this early stage in our work together, to already see a viable pathway to clean propulsion with CRJ aircraft should be absolutely thrilling to everybody who wants us to keep flying. There is some payload and range compromise, but this technical study confirms a viable propulsion architecture and integration which could be utterly transformational. Before the end of the decade airlines could be flying zero-emission jets.

—Val Miftakhov, CEO, ZeroAvia

ZeroAvia’s prototype ZA2000 hydrogen-electric system for 40–80 seat regional turboprop aircraft is soon to be tested aboard a 76-seat Dash 8-400, with a target of certifying the technology for use as early as 2027. This development will also be a crucial enabler for the more intensive regional jet application. The company has made significant advances on both its electric motor technology and fuel cell power generation, with ZA2000 motor cores and HTPEM fuel cell stacks already in testing.



As I note here the barriers to hydrogen electric aircraft seem to be as much regulatory as technical:


That is not however to trivialise the considerable difficulties of using liquid hydrogen both in the airport and aboard the plane, but so far, so good.

Stonking performance from their HT PEM fuel cells.


All sounds wonderful except the 560 nm range. What exactly is that? NBAA IFR range? How long can the plane actually stay aloft? As a retired airline captain and current King Air 350i corporate pilot I don’t think I would want to get in a plane with only 560 nm range. There are weather days that I would not want to fly our 1800 nm range King Air on a 560 nm trip.


Hi Jeff.
Many thanks for the professional input!

Perhaps you would bring the rest of us up to speed on what is required.

I thought that planes whatever their range capacity normally carry 'just enough' plus safety margins for their trips?

I don't think anyone is suggesting the use of this for airports 560nm apart!
However, here in Europe distances are relatively short, and there are often loads of places to put down if the weather becomes adverse.

In addition, there are restrictions in, for instance, France, regarding catching a plane versus travelling by train, so perhaps low or zero emission flights will get an exemption.

For instance, London to Paris is a couple of hundred nautical miles, which to this wholly amateur observer would appear to be well within the capacity of this first ZEV plane, and with of the order of 100,000 passengers per year London-Paris, a figure which does not appear to include travel the other way (!) that would appear to represent a significant and large enough opportunity for initial ZEV flights, if indeed with adequate safety the range is adequate to that, without considering dozens of other possible routes within Europe.


I would be grateful for you knowledgeable and informed comments on this.

Maybe it doesn't work, but I don't understand why not.


Airbus also appear to be making solid progress in hydrogen flight.

Here they are now testing a 1.2MW fuel cell system, the kind of size you need for large commercial aircraft:


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