Cranfield University spinoff Cranfield Aerospace Solutions is looking to raise £30m in funding to develop a hydrogen-powered aircraft that could be commercially available as soon as 2026.
Cranfield has worked with companies like Airbus and Rolls Royce on design and modification for decades. The company says it is currently in talks with over a dozen potential investors to raise the funds to build a demonstration hydrogen-powered aircraft. Hydrogen is one of the alternative fuels being investigated as part of the industry’s decarbonisation efforts.
Paul Hutton, the company’s chief executive, believes hydrogen-powered flight is not far away. The company recently announced plans to merge with British aircraft manufacturer Britten-Norman to retrofit a hydrogen fuel cell engine to a nine-seater aircraft. Hutton says the merger will help speed up the development process and get the zero-emissions aircraft certified by regulators within the proposed timeline.
Cranfield has a multi-stage plan, with the next stage being to incorporate a hydrogen fuel cell engine into a 19-seater aircraft. Ultimately, the company aims to develop a new regional aircraft with up to 100 seats based on the same technology.
Nevertheless, some cast doubt on whether sufficient green hydrogen, which is hydrogen made using renewable energy, will be available. This is despite the fact that companies like BP, the maker of the Castrol lubricant and coolant products, have already announced projects like HyGreen Teesside. Some also point to alternative products, like Shell’s sustainable aviation fuel, which can reduce the carbon emissions of current aircraft.