Universal Hydrogen runs ‘largest ever’ fuel cell powertrain on liquid H2



Universal Hydrogen has successfully run what it says is the “largest ever” fuel cell powertrain on liquid hydrogen. 

The firm powered the megawatt-class fuel cell powertrain using its proprietary liquid hydrogen module to supply the fuel. The liquid hydrogen powered the firm’s iron bird ground test rig for over 1 hour and 40 minutes at the Mojave Air & Space Port, California.

“This is the largest fuel cell powertrain ever to run on liquid hydrogen,” said Mark Cousin president and chief technology officer. “Making it another in a series of ‘firsts’ for Universal Hydrogen.” 

The iron bird is a functional analogue of the powertrain that Universal has been flight testing since March last year. The liquid hydrogen module holds fuel to power the iron bird for over three hours at full power, with two such modules sufficient for 500 nautical miles of usable range (on top of reserves) for an ATR72 regional airliner. 

This demonstration is the first time the Universal’s module and powertrain have been integrated together.

Paul Eremenko co-founder and CEO of Universal Hydrogen said: “This end-to-end demonstration of a hydrogen molecule moving from our filler/dispenser into our storage module and then into our powertrain is the first time that all the pieces of our product portfolio for regional aviation have come together. The next step is to upgrade our flight testbed to fly the powertrain fuelled by our modules.”

Developed at Universal Hydrogen’s engineering and design centre in Toulouse, France, the liquid hydrogen module is key to its fuel services offering for aviation. It internalises all the complexity of managing cryogenic hydrogen, while externally presenting a simple container interface compatible with existing intermodal freight and airport cargo handling equipment. 

The module contains ~200 kilograms of liquid hydrogen and is capable of storing it for long durations without boiloff. It also contains systems to convert cryogenic liquid hydrogen into warm gaseous hydrogen that is consumed by the powertrain. Whilst incorporating features such as hydrogen leak detection and venting systems for safe operations, as well as a leak-proof quick-connect for simple installation and removal.