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Four New Zealand businesses have come together to trial using hydrogen in an aviation setting for the first time in Aotearoa.

Air New Zealand, Wellington Airport, Toyota New Zealand, and Hiringa Energy have joined forces to trial using hydrogen to charge Air New Zealand’s electric tugs and service vehicles over the next few weeks at Wellington Airport.

Air New Zealand Senior Sustainability Manager, Jacob Snelgrove says the airline wants to pioneer the commercial deployment of green hydrogen-powered aircraft in New Zealand.

“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. 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.”

“This is the first time hydrogen has been used at an airport in New Zealand and is an important step on the long-term journey to decarbonise aviation,” says Wellington Airport Chief Executive Matt Clarke.

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

The trial will be conducted using a hydrogen fuel cell provided by Toyota New Zealand. The fuel cell uses hydrogen to generate electricity, with supply coordinated by Hiringa Energy, a New Zealand-based clean energy company.

“It’s a privilege to be supporting Air New Zealand and Wellington Airport in demonstrating the safe use of hydrogen for use in aviation, says Hiringa Energy Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Clennett.

“Green hydrogen has a significant role to play in decarbonising Aotearoa, and this programme is helping everyone to better understand the benefits of introducing hydrogen to airport operations as we prepare for hydrogen-powered aircraft in the future.”

Toyota New Zealand Chief Executive, Neeraj Lala says the firm’s introduction of its hydrogen fuel cell generator at Wellington Airport directly aligns with its strategy.

“We are passionate about advancing the hydrogen economy in New Zealand by introducing innovative new technology that supports our decarbonisation ambition.”

“By showcasing innovative solutions like the fuel cell generator in practical applications such as aviation, we can stimulate demand and demonstrate the viability and benefits of hydrogen technology, ultimately paving the way for broader adoption and investment in hydrogen across various sectors of the New Zealand economy.”

“Our Toyota Fuel Cell Generators will now provide companies serious about climate with a genuine clean energy alternative,” says Neeraj.

The trial begins today and will run until 15 March 2024.