Air New Zealand Trials Hydrogen-Powered Ground Vehicles

Hydrogen fuel is pumped into a ground handling vehicle at Wellington Airport.
Photo Credit: Air New zealand
Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
4 Min Read

Paving the way for a greener future in aviation, four major New Zealand companies are collaborating on a groundbreaking trial. The initiative will use hydrogen to power electric service vehicles at Wellington Airport.

This initiative marks a significant step towards decarbonizing the aviation industry. Beyond New Zealand, it holds potential for uptake on a wider scale.

Leading the charge is Air New Zealand, who aim to become a pioneer in the commercial use of green hydrogen-powered aircraft.

“Green hydrogen is rapidly gaining traction worldwide as a low-emission fuel for various transportation modes, and aircraft are the next logical step,” says Jacob Snelgrove, Air New Zealand’s Senior Sustainability Manager.

“Successful test flights are already happening overseas, but the biggest hurdle for us in New Zealand is establishing the infrastructure to support hydrogen-powered airplanes. This trial is a crucial first step in developing that system.”

Photo: Air New Zealand NZ0245 Landing in Wellington; photo Credit: Anna Calver

A First for Wellington Airport

Wellington Airport, a key partner in the initiative, echoes the significance of the trial. “This is a historic moment for New Zealand’s aviation sector,” says Matt Clarke, the airport’s Chief Executive.

“It’s the first time hydrogen is being used at an airport here, and it paves the way for a long-term journey towards cleaner aviation.”

It is the third busiest airport in New Zealand after Auckland Airport and Christchurch Airport. The airport handled over 3.4 million passengers in the year ending June 2022.

The airport serves as a hub for Air New Zealand, Sounds Air, Jetconnect, Air Nelson, and Mount Cook Airline.

The trial will provide valuable insights into the feasibility of hydrogen as a charging solution, highlighting both challenges and opportunities in its implementation.

The trial utilizes a hydrogen fuel cell provided by Toyota New Zealand. This innovative technology generates electricity using hydrogen, supplied by Hiringa Energy, a leading clean energy company in New Zealand.

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The Green Hydrogen Potential

“We’re honored to support Air New Zealand and Wellington Airport in demonstrating the safe use of hydrogen in aviation,” says Andrew Clennett, Hiringa Energy’s CEO.

“Green hydrogen has the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions in New Zealand, and this program showcases its numerous benefits for airport operations, paving the path for future hydrogen-powered aircraft.”

Toyota New Zealand actively supports the trial, aligning perfectly with their commitment to advancing the hydrogen economy in the country.

“We’re passionate about introducing innovative solutions like the hydrogen fuel cell generator to support New Zealand’s decarbonization goals.” Neeraj Lala, Chief Executive of Toyota New Zealand added his observations.

“By demonstrating the practicality of such technologies in real-world applications like aviation. We can stimulate demand and highlight the viability and advantages of hydrogen.”

“This ultimately fosters broader adoption and investment across various sectors of the New Zealand economy.”

Summary

The trial commenced on March 4 and will continue until March 15. This is a collaborative effort by aviation partners Air New Zealand and Wellington Airport. Joined by Toyota New Zealand, and Hiringa Energy, it marks a promising new step.

Beyond Aotearoa, the initiative potentially paves the way for a further global shift towards sustainable air travel.


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Air New Zealand is part of a collective which is currently trialling the use of hydrogen-powered ground service vehicles at Wellington Airport
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