ZeroAvia unveils 1.8MW motor system as it develops a 76-seat hydrogen electric plane with Alaska Airlines

Hydrogen-electric plane developer ZeroAvia has received delivery of a 76-passenger plane from Alaska Airlines it can now retrofit with zero-emissions technology as promised years ago. Furthermore, the company’s advancements in modular motor systems could enable test flights of the plane sooner than you’d think.

ZeroAvia is a zero-emission aviation company that specializes hydrogen-electric propulsion solutions. Through operations in both the US and UK, the company currently holds three experimental certificates for prototype aircraft from the CAA and FAA.

The company is targeting commercialized electric plane operations beginning with 300 mile range, 9-19 seat aircraft by 2025 and is already eyeing flights with 40-80 seat aircraft with up to 700 miles of range by 2027.

In late December of 2022, ZeroAvia confirmed that it had finally received the necessary permit in the UK to get its 19-seat Dornier 228 twin-engine aircraft airborne and did so (with video) by mid-January.

While the Dornier 228 was at the time, the world’s largest hydrogen electric plane to take flight, we’ve been waiting for updates in relation to the 76-seat Bombardier Q400 plane promised to ZeroAvia by Alaska Airlines parent company Alaska Air Group – a partner and investor in the aviation developer alongside competitors like United Airlines.

Development plans for that larger hydrogen electric plane were announced all the way back in October of 2021, but it wasn’t until recently that Alaska Airlines delivered the aircraft for ZeroAvia to begin retrofitting it with zero emissions technology.

ZeroAvia receives plane for hydrogen electric conversion

During a ceremony in Washington state that included Governor Jay Inslee and US Representative Suzan DelBenem, Alaska Airlines officially delivered ZeroAvia the Bombardier Q400 regional turboprop (also referred to as the Dash 8-400) promised a year and a half ago.

While ZeroAvia had the crowd’s attention at its research and development site, it also took the opportunity to publicly debut its “HyperCore” motor modules. The company demonstrated a zero-emissions propeller spin attached to its own 15-ton HyperTruck testing rig. The prototype configuration consisted of a 1.8MW modular electric motor system consisting of two, 900kW HyperCore motor modules operating at 20,000 rpm, matching the typical turbine engine speeds while providing an impressive 15kW/kg of motor power density.

ZeroAvia shared that the modularity of its HyperCore system design allows for zero-emission aviation applications ranging from 900kW up to 5.4MW – thus someday offering the potential to successfully propel the 76-seat Dash 8-400 electric plane. Perhaps as early as next year. ZeroAvia founder and CEO Val Miftakhov elaborated:

Demonstrating this size of aircraft in flight, powered entirely by novel propulsion, would have been unthinkable a few years ago. Launching this program puts us on track for a test flight next year, and accelerates our progress toward the future of zero-emission flight for Alaska Airlines and for the world at large.

Looking ahead, the company must also certify its ZA2000 propulsion system powered by the new modular HyperCore motors as well. As with all-electric plane news, this is an exciting story to follow, and we look forward to the next update from ZeroAvia and it looks to get the Q400 airborne.

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