Honeywell launches project to develop hydrogen fuel cells for aviation


A Honeywell-led consortium is launching a European Clean Aviation project to develop hydrogen fuel cells for aviation. 

Project Newborn is a collaboration of 18 partners from 10 European countries with a plan to make an aerospace-qualified megawatt-class fuel cell propulsion system powered by hydrogen. The project is aiming to use green hydrogen — the term given to hydrogen produced by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable electricity. The final demonstrator will be tested by Pipistrel Vertical Solutions.

Axel Krein, executive director of Clean Aviation, said: “Achieving aviation’s transformation to climate-neutral requires a comprehensive arsenal of disruptive solutions that will bring momentous gains in aircraft energy efficiency coupled with low- or zero-carbon energy sources. With the launch of NEWBORN we can kick-start the necessary work to drive a step-change in aircraft performance and deliver EU Green Deal ambitions for net-zero flight.”

Tine Tomažič, chief technology officer at Pipistrel Vertical Solutions said the firm’s priority is to create realistic solutions to make flying sustainable. “Newborn is pushing the boundaries of current hydrogen fuel cell research by establishing a hydrogen hybrid powertrain that employs Pipistrel’s batteries with liquid hydrogen-powered fuel cells at megawatt levels,” said Tomažič.

Work on Newborn will be performed largely at the Honeywell Technology Solutions research and development centre in Brno, Czech Republic. Some efforts will also be undertaken at other Honeywell and project-partner sites across Europe.

Kurt Shewfelt, senior director, Breakthrough Technology Initiatives, Honeywell Aerospace, said: “Honeywell is dedicated to helping our customers achieve environmental targets through technologies that make our world more sustainable and better connected. We are proud to work with our project partners on innovative, new technology that will help integrate hydrogen propulsion on commercial aircraft and contribute to a more sustainable future for aviation.” 

The EU’s Clean Aviation Joint Undertaking is funding €700m over 20 selected sustainability projects in response to its first Call for Proposals for disruptive technology research to power the climate-neutral aircraft of the future. Project Newborn was ranked top in the first call for proposals, receiving the highest score by the selection committee.