Monday, July 26, 2021

New Fleet of Planes Poised to Expand ZeroAvia Hydrogen-Fueled Air Travel.

July 16, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Opinion, Tech/Internet, Weekly Columns

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( Multinational aviation pioneer ZeroAvia is again making waves with its latest progress toward reducing emissions for air travel.

Based in both the United Kingdom and the United States, the company announced that it was growing its hydrogen-electric aviation program with the launch of a new development phase involving 19-seat aircraft. 

In addition, the company has announced increased investments in its plans to apply its powertrain technology to develop even larger engines for 50-seat aircraft in the coming years.

Founded in 2017, the ZeroAvia has an ambitious timeline for growth, drawing on its early testing successes. Its aim is to use the hydrogen-electric powertrains in progressively larger aircraft with the capability to take increasingly longer trips. 

As it focuses its work now on smaller aircraft with smaller seating capacities, it is also creating the infrastructure to support zero-emission engines on 100-seat aircraft by the 2030s.

2-21 New Fleet of Planes Poised to Expand ZeroAvia Hydrogen-Fueled Air Travel

The company has acquired two twin-engine Dornier 228 planes from Aurigny in the United Kingdom and AMC Aviation in the United States. 

The bulk of the work will take place in the company’s new facility in Kemble in the United Kingdom as ZeroAvia increases its presence in the U.K. A second facility in Hollister, California, will provide support and outfit the second plane to pass regulatory hurdles in North America to prepare for commercial viability.

The company will replace the Dornier 228 engines with two 600-kilowatt powertrains that ZeroAvia is developing. The planes will also be outfitted with hydrogen fuel tanks capable of holding 100 kilograms of compressed gaseous hydrogen.

If all goes according to plan, ZeroAvia would provide 500-mile flights by 2024.

“We are eager and ready to begin testing our hydrogen-electric powertrain technology on a larger commercial-size aircraft and grateful to our investors and grant funders for their continued support of our vision for sustainable aviation,” said Val Miftakhov, ZeroAvia’s founder and CEO, when he announced the new venture.

“Various projections indicate that aviation may account for over 25 percent of human-induced climate effects by 2050. We are on the path to helping reverse that trend, first with our successful 6-seater testing and now with the R&D for our 19-seater and the kick-off of our 50+ seat program,” Miftakhov said. “Hydrogen is the only practical solution for true climate-neutral flight, and it will become a commercial reality much sooner than many predict.”

ZeroAvia has made major progress in a short time in hydrogen fuel cell technology. In September 2020, it completed the first-ever zero-emission fuel-based flight on a commercial-grade passenger plane, using a six-seat Piper Malibu Mirage that it had outfitted with the new technology.

The company has also been securing partnerships with airlines, many of which have pledged to reduce or eliminate emissions. Most notable is British Airways, which seeks to create a new fleet of aircraft powered by hydrogen-electric engines. Amazon is also working with ZeroAvia as it seeks to build its own fleet of aircraft for transportation. Both Amazon and British Airways have made financial investments in the company.

The United Kingdom is making a considerable push to be the forerunner in aviation powered by alternative energy sources. The U.K. government has established several initiatives to promote and support sustainable air travel.

In addition to federal funding, companies pursuing zero-emission aviation are attracting private investors. ZeroAvia recently announced a new round of $13 million in funding, designed to support the development of technology to deploy on 50-seat aircraft.

AP Ventures, a frequent investor in hydrogen-related technologies, leads the new funding round, which includes commitments from Alumni Ventures Group, Agartha Fund LP, and SGH Capital. Other recent investors include Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Horizons Ventures, Shell Ventures, Summa Equity, and SYSTEMIQ.

Those commitments bring the total amount of funding for the larger-plane project to $37 million. 

About ZeroAvia

Founded in 2017, ZeroAvia is based in the United Kingdom and United States. The company is developing hydrogen-fueled powertrain technology that will reduce emissions and climate impact. 

ZeroAvia expects to launch commercial products by 2024. Today, the company employs about 50 people, with plans to add more than 100 employees to its two locations in the next 12 months.

In recent months, ZeroAvia has received considerable acclaim for its work in transforming air travel. Among its recent achievements, it was:

  • Named by Fast Company as a winner in the transportation category at its 2021 World Changing Ideas Awards.
  • Announced as one of 10 finalists by NASA iTech.
  • Named a 2021 Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum.
  • Appointed a member of the Global Coalition for Sustainable Aviation, which is organized by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations agency.

Staff Writer; Roy Johnson

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