UK-based hydrogen plane startup gets $38m backings from Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates
The government also provided $16.3m to help ZeroAvia make a 19-seat hydrogen-electric powered plane by 2023
A start-up developing the world's first hydrogen fuel cell-powered passenger flight has raised $37.7m (£27.9m) in backing from the Government and a group of investors that includes funds founded by Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos.
ZeroAvia, which is headquartered at Cranfield having relocated from the US last year, said it will use the money to develop technology that could cut carbon emissions from the aviation sector by replacing fossil-fuel-burning propulsion with a hydrogen fuel-cell system.
The company raised $21.4m in an investment round led by Ecosystem Integrity Fund and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a fund backed by Bill Gates. Other investors in the round included Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, Horizons Ventures, Shell Ventures, and Summa Equity.
The Government also provided $16.3m in funding to help the London and California-based company make a 19-seat hydrogen-electric powered plane by 2023.
ZeroAvia has also announced that it has struck a partnership with British Airways to investigate how its hydrogen technology could help the airline reduce its emissions. The collaboration between the two companies is being managed through BA parent company IAG's Hangar 51 start-up accelerator scheme.
A plane with ZeroAvia’s hydrogen fuel cell technology made its first flight from the company research and development facility in Cranfield in September.
Val Miftakhov, ZeroAvia’s chief executive, was one of the pilots on the eight-minute flight which saw the aircraft – registration G-HYZA in a nod to its fuel source – do two circuits of the Bedfordshire airfield, reaching 1,000ft and 100 knots.
The flight was used to demonstrate the viability of the ZeroAvia’s 800-volt emission-free powertrain, which turns hydrogen into electricity to drive Piper’s propellor.
At the time, Iain Gray, director of aerospace at Cranfield, said that the flight was “as big a moment in aerospace as any in the last 75 years, compared with the first flight of the jet engine”.
The funding into ZeroAvia comes as manufacturers and airlines are seeking emerging technologies that could be used to dramatically cut emissions.
Rolls Royce completed ground testing of a powertrain for what could become the world's first electric airplane earlier this year. It's hoped that the 500 horsepower aircraft could fly at 300mph.
Miftakhov said that 10 airlines are preparing to use the company’s technology once it’s ready for sale in 2023.
ZeroAvia aims to demonstrate that it can fly a plane 500 miles with as many as 20 seats by 2023. It wants to scale up to 1,000 miles with over 100 seats by 2030.
Next year, the business is aiming to conduct more test flights which will last longer than the demonstration flight in September.
The aviation industry added more than 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2019, according to BloombergNEF. Hydrogen could be the key to slashing emissions from the sector in the coming decades.