Development of hydrogen Ground Power Unit at Groningen Airport Eelde


  • Zero emissions: the hydrogen GPU emits no pollutants and is a clean energy source. Hydrogen is a renewable energy source when produced from renewable sources such as our solar farm.

  • Quiet: the built-in fuel cell makes hardly any noise, contributing to a quieter airport environment.

  • Improved working conditions: the hydrogen GPU emits no pollutants and produces hardly any noise, improving working conditions at the airport.

  • Efficient: the fuel cell GPU has a longer operational life than a battery-electric GPU. Filling a hydrogen tank takes only a few minutes, while fully charging a battery can take hours, depending on battery technology and local electrical power constraints.

  • Independent of the power grid: Airports often have high energy demand and electricity availability can be a problem when using battery-electric ground handling equipment. Hydrogen-powered GPU have no limitations in terms of grid capacity and can therefore help optimise energy supply at airports.

Hydrogen ambition Groningen Airport Eelde

This innovation is part of the ‘GRQ Hydrogen Valley Airport’ project. In this project, the airport works together with (mainly regional) partners such as New Energy Coalition, Holthausen, Demcon, Total Energies, GroenLeven, Alfa College and the University of Groningen to create a complete and scalable hydrogen ecosystem. The airport is leading the way in making aviation more sustainable and, for this purpose, serves as a testing ground and demonstration location for other airports in the Interreg North Sea Programme area, such as Schiphol Airport.

The European Union, Province of Drenthe, Holthausen Clean Technology, University of Groningen, New Energy Coalition, KLM Equipment Services and Groningen Airport Eelde are enabling the development of a hydrogen Ground Power Unit and working together to make aviation more sustainable.

Diesel becomes hydrogen

A Ground Power Unit (GPU) is used to power aircraft on the ground with electric power. Diesel-powered GPUs account for more than a third of the diesel consumption of ground equipment at airports.

Holthausen Clean Technology has fitted a GPU, originally fossil-powered, with a fuel cell. This GPU comes from KLM Equipment Services at Schiphol Airport. They are making the GPU available for the benefit of hydrogen knowledge and technology development at Groningen Airport Eelde (GAE). The airport is leading the way in making aviation more sustainable and serves as a testing ground and demonstration location for other airports. GAE shares the acquired knowledge and experience with other airports to enable more sustainable aviation. The hydrogen GPU will be tested and demonstrated as a proof of concept at both Groningen Airport Eelde and Schiphol.

Paul Feldbrugge, Manager Fleet Management & Engineering:

“KLM Equipment Services is pleased to contribute towards a Zero Emission airport operation through hydrogen technology. In the coming years, basically all Diesel GPUs will be replaced by either hydrogen GPUs or battery-electric GPUs.”


The fuel cell built into the GPU uses a Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell to generate electricity. Combining hydrogen and oxygen in the fuel cell creates an electrochemical reaction that produces electricity. This electricity is then used to power aircraft on the ground.

Subsidy from HyTrEc2

Funds for this development have come from the European programme HyTrEc2, part of the Interreg VB North Sea Region Programme. The Province of Drenthe is a partner in this programme, which aims to support the use of hydrogen in the transport and energy sector in the North Sea Region (NSR).

Tjisse Stelpstra, Deputy Drenthe Province:

“We are proud of this cooperation of the Province of Drenthe with the airport, which as a frontrunner focuses so emphatically on making aviation more sustainable, making use of the network, knowledge and experience that exists in our Province in the field of hydrogen.”


Ground Power Unit


Holthausen Clean Technologie, KLM Equipment Services, New Energy Coalition, Provincie Drenthe, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen Groningen Airport Eelde