The dramatic explosion of the Hindenburg hydrogen airship in New Jersey in 1937 may have tainted public opinion about the safety of H2 for decades, but that has not prevented a US start-up from forging ahead with plans for a new generation of hydrogen-powered zeppelins.

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California-based H2 Clipper has been selected for inclusion in French software developer Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE Lab accelerator programme, which the start-up says will “advance its mission of developing and commercializing a global fleet of 100% green airships that transform the hydrogen and air transport industry”.

Unlike the ill-fated Hindenburg, the H2 Clipper airship will not transport passengers, but only pure hydrogen. So H2 will be the fuel, the lifting gas and the cargo.

“H2 Clipper’s 21st-century airship is designed for transporting pure hydrogen from where it is least costly to produce to markets where clean energy is most needed, and for enabling a 100% carbon-free method of transporting freight and other cargo 7-10 times faster than by ship, truck, or rail, and at a 70% savings over traditional air transport,” the company said in a statement.

“As more hydrogen projects are announced globally, there’s a growing appreciation among leading analysts that one of the biggest challenges will be how to efficiently transport, distribute, and store hydrogen.”

H2 Clipper aims to build a prototype in 2024 and a full-sized version in 2027, which would use fuel cells and electric engines to travel at speeds of more than 175 miles per hour (280km/h), travelling distances of 6,000-plus miles (9,656+ km) in a single non-stop journey while transporting up to 150 tonnes of hydrogen.

Dassault says companies including H2 Clipper were selected for its accelerator programme by “demonstrating significant technological breakthroughs with the greatest potential to positively impact and transform society in alignment with one or more [UN] Sustainable Development Goals”.

“The aerospace and aviation revolution is being driven by breakthroughs in the use of renewable fuels such as hydrogen, as well as advanced material science and engineering,” said Frédéric Vacher, head of innovation at Dassault Systèmes. “We are pleased to support H2 Clipper to accelerate maturing these disruptive technologies to serve humankind.”