Commercial passenger flights using new hydrogen-electric aircraft could start as early as 2025 following a deal between Rotterdam The Hague airport, energy giant Shell and sustainable aviation firm ZeroAvia.
A new collaboration agreement between the three companies will see the development of hydrogen operations at the Dutch airport, with the hope of launching demonstration flights to European destinations by the end of next year and passenger flights by 2025.
Last month, UK and US-based ZeroAvia successfully held the first test flight of its new 19-seat aircraft, which is powered by a hydrogen-electric engine.
The new project at Rotterdam airport aims to create an infrastructure and standards for safety, refuelling and hydrogen management needed for this new type of aircraft. The three organisations also plan to hold discussions with potential airline operators for the first demonstration flights and the subsequent commercial services.
It is planned that ZeroAvia’s zero-emission, hydrogen-electric aircraft will take part in demonstration flights with the “aim to establish” routes to European airports within 250 nautical miles of Rotterdam.
Arnab Chatterjee, vice president of infrastructure at ZeroAvia, said the new consortium “moves the ball a significant distance down the field towards our goal line of commercial operations”.
“Some first passengers on zero-emission flights in the world could be flying from Rotterdam,” added Chatterjee. “There is still a lot of work to do, but with clear milestones and targets identified, the hard work really starts now towards delivering the infrastructure and exploring the protocols and standards required.”
Shell has already provided low carbon-intensity hydrogen to ZeroAvia to power some of its testing and early commercial operations in California. Shell has also invested in ZeroAvia.
Wilma Van Dijk, CEO of Rotterdam The Hague airport, added: “Hydrogen is key to decarbonise aviation. This collaboration helps us demonstrate and validate new airport infrastructure requirements as well as concepts of operation, and hence accelerate and stimulate airport transformation towards zero-emission.”
Under current plans, ZeroAvia is initially targeting a 300-mile range for its aircraft of 9-19 seats and up to a 700-mile range for 40-80 seat aircraft by 2027.