In Germany, H2FLY, a company developing hydrogen fuel cell systems for aircraft, has announced the construction of a facility called the Center of Excellence for Hydrogen in Aviation. The facility is to be located at Stuttgart Airport and is scheduled to open in late 2024.
The new hydrogen aircraft facility will be purpose-built for the development and testing of hydrogen-electric propulsion systems for passenger aviation. This should function as a central location for companies and scientific institutes.
H2FLY and Flughafen Stuttgart GmbH want to offer these players the opportunity to research and develop innovative concepts in the field of hydrogen-electric aviation and to test them on the ground and in the air within the airport environment. H2FLY is to manage the commissioning of the dedicated hangar with “extensive R&D infrastructure”. The state of Baden-Württemberg is supporting the project with 5.5 million euros.
According to those involved in the project, the centrepiece of the Center of Excellence for Hydrogen in Aviation will be a hangar with test stands, workshops, an integrated environment for the installation and conversion of zero-emission aircraft engines, workplaces and an open area for testing hydrogen technologies in aircraft demonstrators. This infrastructure is designed to enable the development of components and sub-systems in the megawatt range, as well as the integration and test operation of hydrogen-electric powertrains.
The state of Baden-Württemberg, home to the bulk of Germany’s automotive industry activity, has contributed 5.5 million euros to the project. Winfried Kretschmann, Minister-President of the state of Baden-Württemberg, explains that the German state has been following its own hydrogen roadmap for the last two years.
“With hydrogen set to play a crucial role in tomorrow’s transport and logistics sector, one of our aims is to establish ourselves as a leading region in the transformation of aviation,” Kretschmann revealed. As recent developments across the aviation sector show, hydrogen is the essential element involved all low- and zero-emission aircraft beyond small local electric aircraft, so technological development in this rapidly emerging field gives any country a large engineering advantage. “This project will enable our region to become not just a centre of R&D for hydrogen aircraft, but eventually also a manufacturing centre” the Baden-Württemberg Minister added.
Professor Josef Kallo, co-founder and CEO of H2FLY says, “With the Hydrogen Aviation Center, “H2FLY will create a focal point for the entire ecosystem of emission-free, hydrogen-electric flight.” He sees the future of the facility as a place where developments and applications in the field of commercial hydrogen-electric aviation will advance in an environment where different partners pool resources in collaborative progress.
H2FLY GmbH was founded in 2015 by five engineers from the German Aerospace Center in Stuttgart and the University of Ulm and is working to bring the first certifiable, fully hydrogen-electric aircraft engine to market. The company is based in Stuttgart and is currently focused on integrating liquid hydrogen tanks into the HY4 test aircraft. The company says that judging by current progress, in just a few years’ time, “hydrogen-electric aircraft should then be able to transport 40 passengers over ranges of up to 2,000 km,” which is far enough to connect all countries within Europe, and from Europe to its surrounding continents.
In December, H2FLY announced that it had also taken over the management of the HEAVEN project, which has been running since 2019. The initiative aims to build a powertrain based on fuel cells and cryogenic technology. H2FLY has already been responsible for the fuel cell system, the HY4 integration platform and the aircraft system architecture, including control of the fuel cell and LH2 tank systems as part of the project. In December, the Stuttgart-based company also took over the management of the overall project, which will run until September 2023.
Nico Bucholz, CCO of Deutsche Aircraft, a company collaborating with H2FLY confirms that the company is developing its D238eco aircraft, for which certification is already scheduled for Q4 in 2026. This aircraft uses Power2Liquid jet fuel made from green hydrogen. “This makes it clear: hydrogen is an important game changer in our business.”