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Universal Hydrogen successfully powers megawatt-class fuel cell powertrain using proprietary liquid hydrogen module

Universal Hydrogen successfully ran a megawatt-class fuel cell powertrain using its proprietary liquid hydrogen module to supply the fuel. The liquid hydrogen module powered the company’s “iron bird” ground test rig for more than 1 hour and 40 minutes, simulating a regional aircraft flight profile. The iron bird is a functional analogue of the powertrain that Universal Hydrogen has been flight testing since March 2023.

The company’s liquid hydrogen module holds fuel to power the iron bird for more than three hours at full power, with two such modules sufficient for 500 nautical miles of usable range (on top of reserves) for an ATR72 regional airliner.

This demonstration, conducted at the Mojave Air & Space Port, is the first time the company’s module and powertrain have been integrated together, marking another significant accomplishment on the path toward entry into passenger service planned for 2026.

Developed at Universal Hydrogen’s engineering and design center in Toulouse, France, the liquid hydrogen module is the core of the company’s fuel services offering for aviation. It internalizes all the complexity of managing cryogenic hydrogen, while externally presenting a simple container interface compatible with existing intermodal freight and airport cargo handling equipment.

The module contains ~200 kilograms of liquid hydrogen and is capable of storing it for long durations without boiloff. The module contains systems to convert cryogenic liquid hydrogen into warm gaseous hydrogen that is consumed by the powertrain. It also incorporates features such as hydrogen leak detection and venting systems for safe operations, as well as a leak-proof quick-connect for easy installation and removal of the module from the aircraft.

This end-to-end demonstration of a hydrogen molecule moving from our filler/dispenser into our storage module and then into our powertrain is the first time that all the pieces of our product portfolio for regional aviation have come together. The next step is to upgrade our flight testbed to fly the powertrain fueled by our modules.

—Paul Eremenko, co-founder and CEO of Universal Hydrogen

The demonstration comes on the heels of Universal Hydrogen’s demo in recent weeks of another use case for its modular fueling technology, a hydrogen-powered charger for airport ground support equipment.



Dunno to what extent containing it within an integrated capsule will allay Gryf's concerns about the problems of handling hydrogen within the airport and in the plane itself, but presumably it has got to help.

At the moment I am looking at the use of hydrogen within the support facilities of the airport, ground handling equipment and so on, as provision of that would not only provide valuable practical experience, but enable a to hand supply of hydrogen for light aircraft.

The other day Beyond Aero carried out not one, but 10 test flights of their battery/fuel cell system, which sounds downright greedy:


They are hoping to build a small business jet, with a lot longer range than is practical with batteries alone, 800nm

No VTOL, perhaps because the very high power draw of take off and landing is more suitable for a configuration using batteries as fuel cells don't like to have a high intermittent power draw?

They still have a pretty hefty battery component.


For moving hydrogen about from renewables production sites which are often remote from where you want to use it, the Chinese are planning to build the world's longest hydrogen pipe, at 700km:


What I find interesting is that in spite of the according to some near impossibility of piping hydrogen without excessive losses due to the small size of the hydrogen molecules, corrosion and perhaps as being contrary to the will of the Almighty, they say:

' The pipeline will operate at a pressure of 63 bar, higher than the 40-bar standard in China, which will allow it to carry more H2 at any given time.'

So they are at least confident, rightly or wrongly, that they have a good handle on hydrogen containment.


And work to blend hydrogen in existing NG pipelines then extract it where needed continues to progress:


It is a bit unfortunate that it uses platignum, but perfection is not reached at one bound.

In my view it was always an extraordinary notion that the many millions of kilometers of gas pipes would be abandoned, whilst new electricity connections would be forced through across the countryside to totally replace them, and that the real enough issues of upgrading have been exagerated beyond reason.

If laying underground electricity cables could have a cost reduction of 5-10 times, which is perhaps not completely impossible, then maybe, but not otherwise.

And the use of hydrogen and fuel cells is a darn good way of charging electric vehicles, particularly if you are talking about trucks, with their high power draw.

Buses don't have the same problem, as you can usually charge them overnight.

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