Why The UK Is Becoming The Center Of Hydrogen Aviation Innovation

Earlier this week, Simple Flying was on the scene when HyPoint cut the ribbon to open its new hydrogen R&D and production site in the United Kingdom. The Kent facility joins the company’s affiliate, ZeroAvia to add another hydrogen innovation location in the country.

The focal point

Alex Ivanenko, the CEO and co-founder of HyPoint, has a rich history in the energy sector. With a PhD in electrochemistry, he has worked with several key names to help develop innovative solutions in this field.

From Moscow to Silicon Valley, Ivanenko has covered plenty of ground with his creativity. Yet, he highlights that the UK is becoming the capital of hydrogen aviation. He notes that there are numerous sustainable energy strategies in place, enabling a positive environment for alternative fuel processes to be explored.

Ivanenko affirms that while many governments talk about greener transport progression, the UK government is actually committing the funds to make it happen. In practice, the state recently revealed a £300 million ($400 million) investment plan to develop more sustainable ways of air transportation. Authorities also shared that it wants the country to build the first zero-emission long-haul plane in the world.

HyPoint-Fuel-Cell-Rendering-1

With HyPoint developing zero-carbon emission hydrogen fuel cell systems for the aviation market and revealing the first operable prototype of its turbo air-cooled hydrogen fuel cell system based on NASA award-winning fuel cell technology, the UK is in a promising position in the mission to bring a net-zero travel industry. Photo: HyPoint

Thus, we’ve seen a plethora of British veterans and startups alike jumping on board to help deliver net-zero 2050 targets. Just last year, we saw how Rolls-Royce managed to break the record for the fastest electric aircraft. The project was made possible by funding from Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in collaboration with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.

The technology in Rolls-Royce’s electric program has been tipped to be involved in future eVTOL aircraft, a scene that is set to overhaul UK transport networks by the end of this decade. A map of vertiports is anticipated to help commuters reach their destinations more efficiently.

A local presence

Hydrogen is also being touted as a fuel source for these aircraft. So, with the likes of HyPoint and ZeroAvia nearby, there is a budding community of hydrogen and sustainable aviation specialists on hand.

Amid this innovation race, it’s crucial to have the right talent supporting the drive. Ivanenko expresses that the UK’s immigration process makes it simpler for those with specialist skills to enter the country for work. However, in other regions, such as the United States, the process can take many months or even years. So, with the streamlined approach, the facilities in the UK can have skilled support swiftly on the scene.

HyPoint

The UK hosted a Global Investment Summit last year to encourage foreign investment in greener industries, and HyPoint is looking to bring up to over 100 jobs and more than 100 megawatts of onsite plant capacity with its new facility. Photo: HyPoint

Nonetheless, there is also an abundance of talent already in the country that is being mobilized to research and develop hydrogen solutions. Ivankenko shares:

“The UK has a strong position in fuel cell technology because you have intelligent energy companies and schools here. You have strong science teams in the likes of Manchester and Cambridge, and we are adding local people to the team here in Kent.”

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Sky’s the limit

With a robust network of skilled talent and significant investment to match, there are plenty of prospects for hydrogen aviation. Ivankenko concluded the following to Simple Flying:

“We are designing the system to our customer requirements. There are density and charging limitations with lithium-ion batteries. To charge them you have to spend about six hours, which could kill an airline’s business model. Whereas hydrogen fuel cell systems are much faster to charge.”

Hydrogen used in fuel cells has an energy-to-weight ratio that is 10 times greater than lithium-ion batteries. As a result, this solution provides far better range while being lighter and needing less volume. On the face of it, systems could be charged in just minutes.

Altogether, hydrogen fuel cell technology is attracting and increasing interest from aviation stakeholders across the continents. Airbus has revealed that it is working on solutions and has ambitions to introduce the first zero-emission commercial aircraft by 2035, which would be based on the element. Interestingly, Airbus has recently been in communication with HyPoint about progression in the hydrogen space.

The likes of British Airways have also been keeping a close eye. The flag carrier of the United Kingdom is looking to lower emissions with ZeroAvia’s aircraft. The British/American hydrogen-electric aircraft developer conducted its first hydrogen-electric civil aircraft flight in 2021 and is looking to perform the first hydrogen-electric passenger flight in 2024. Across the pond, United Airlines and Alaska Airlines recently showed their commitment to more sustainable travel via ZeroAvia’s developments.

So, the likes of ZeroAvia and HyPoint could do wonders in the hydrogen space with their facilities across the UK. There will undoubtedly be several breakthroughs in the field by the time the 2030s arrive.

What are your thoughts about the UK’s potential as a hydrogen innovation hub? Let us know what you think in the comment section.

Southwest Airlines Classic
CJ Bostic: Southwest Airlines’ First Black Flight Attendant

The aviation veteran joined Southwest Airlines 50 years ago and went on to become a much-loved member of the family.

Read Next


About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.