This looks like a clever idea for helping the aviation industry to move away from fossil fuels.
Iceland's national carrier, Icelandair, is now part of a small group of airlines planning to experiment with hydrogen fuel as part of efforts to reduce carbon emissions. It has signed up with US-based company Universal Hydrogen to convert a number of planes in its fleet to fly on hydrogen fuel.
Universal Hydrogen believes that hydrogen is the only viable and scalable solution for decarbonizing aviation, an industry that has proven difficult to turn environmentally friendly.
According to the company, the lack of reliable infrastructure has been the greatest challenge to the wide-scale adoption of hydrogen fuels in the industry. They aim to address this by using a modular capsule technology concept to deliver the notoriously flammable fuel safely.
In an interview with Reuters, Universal Hydrogen CEO Paul Eremenko compared the concept to how Nespresso revolutionized the coffee market. By packing the fuel in large capsules that can be transported using conventional freight networks, the company wants to circumvent the lengthy processes of building hydrogen-supportive infrastructure at existing airports. These capsules will be loaded onto aircraft for flights and replaced when empty, eliminating the need to develop and maintain safety protocols for the fuel at airports.
To increase the rate of adoption by airlines, the company is also developing a conversion kit that can be adapted to existing aircraft, eliminating the need to develop hydrogen-compatible airplanes from scratch. The kit consists of a fuel cell and a hydrogen-electric powertrain that will power the existing propellers, improve performance, save costs, and reduce carbon emissions.