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Air New Zealand trials hydrogen-powered ground vehicles

written by Jake Nelson | March 4, 2024

Air New Zealand is trialling hydrogen charging for its electric vehicles at Wellington Airport. (Image: Air New Zealand)

Air New Zealand and Wellington Airport are trialling the use of hydrogen power in an aviation setting.

The airline’s electric tugs and service vehicles at Wellington will be charged using hydrogen fuel cells over the next few weeks, as part of a trial program involving Air New Zealand, Wellington Airport, Toyota New Zealand, and Hiringa Energy.

“Green hydrogen is starting to be used around the world as a low-emission fuel for buses, trucks, trains, and boats. Aircraft are the logical next step and successful test flights are already underway overseas,” said Air New Zealand senior sustainability manager Jacob Snelgrove.

“The biggest challenge here in New Zealand is setting up the supply, transport, and infrastructure to support fuelling the aircraft. This trial is an important first step to enable the development of that system.”

The trial will be conducted using a fuel cell supplied by Toyota, with energy supply coordinated by clean energy company Hiringa Energy.


According to Wellington Airport chief executive Matt Clarke, this is the first time hydrogen has been used at a NZ airport, and is “an important step on the long-term journey to decarbonise aviation”.

“The trial will help us assess the viability of hydrogen for charging and give us a good insight into the operational challenges and opportunities,” he said.

Air New Zealand is also looking to fly battery-electric aircraft on cargo flights by 2026, last year choosing the ALIA from electric aerospace company BETA Technologies as the first aircraft in its Mission Next Gen program. Air New Zealand has a firm order for one ALIA, with options for an extra two and rights for a further 20.

ALIA is capable of speeds up to 270km/h, has reached ranges of 480km in testing, and can be fully charged in 40 to 60 minutes. Air New Zealand plans to initially operate it on routes of around 150km, at altitudes of between 1,500 to 3,000 metres and intends to announce the two frontrunner airports for basing the aircraft next year.

According to Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran, the purchase is a “small but important step” in the airline’s plan to fly more lower-emissions aircraft domestically.

“Decarbonising aviation isn’t easy, and we have a lot of work to do. We need to accelerate the pace of change in the technology, infrastructure, operations and regulation,” he said in December.

“While this aircraft will add to, not replace our existing fleet, it is a catalyst for that change. By flying the ALIA, we hope to advance our knowledge and the transformation needed in the aviation system in Aotearoa for us to fly larger, fleet replacing, next generation aircraft from 2030.”

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