ZeroAvia and Alaska Airlines are working together to reach the goal of developing the world’s largest zero-emissions aircraft by retrofitting a Bombardier Q400 (also known as the Dash 8-400) regional turboprop with a hydrogen-electric propulsion system. 

ZeroAvia has a successful history of developing hydrogen-electric engines, previously test flying a retrofitted 19-seat aircraft with a 600kW hydrogen-electric engine (ZA600).  Most recently ZeroAvia introduced a multi-megawatt modular-electric motor system in a 1.8MW prototype demonstrated with a propeller spin on ZeroAvia’s 15-ton HyperTruck ground-test rig.  

The new ZA2000 system will also include ZeroAvia’s High Temperature PEM fuel cells and liquid hydrogen fuel storage. The engine uses the fuel cells to generate electricity from the hydrogen fuel and uses that electricity to power the motors that turn the propellers. The ZeroAvia engineering team works with engineers from De Havilland (manufacturer of the Dash 8) to share expertise on the airframe to ensure the project’s success.  

Testing of the 1.8MW electric propulsion system with the Dash 8-400 engine gearbox and propeller is under way. Each of the two HyperCore motors operates at 20,000 rpm, a speed equal to standard turbine engines. 15kW/kg motor power density is attained. The HyperCore design addresses applications ranging from 900kW up to 5.4MW, meeting many regional jet and turboprop requirements. 

Ben Minicucci, CEO of Alaska Airlines, commented, “This is a great step forward in aviation innovation, to help create a new future of flight – right here at home. Alaska Airlines has defined a five-part journey to achieve net zero carbon emissions long-term, but we can’t get there alone. New technologies are required to make that future possible, and we’re thrilled to partner with industry leader ZeroAvia to make new zero emissions options a reality.” 

 Val Miftakhov, CEO and founder of ZeroAvia, added, “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.”