UK plan for commercial hydrogen electric aircraft by 2023

UK plan for commercial hydrogen electric aircraft by 2023

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

UK startup ZeroAvia has raised $21m in equity and is part of a $32m project to develop a commercial hydrogen electric aircraft by 2023.

A £12.3m ($16.3m) grant from the UK government will be matched by partners to bring a hydrogen-electric aviation powertrain for a 19-seat commercial aircraft to market.

The HyFlyer II will deliver the first certifiable hydrogen-electric powertrain for aircraft of up to 19-seats, working with the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) and Warwick-based motor and fuel cell compressor specialist Aeristech.

ZeroAvia plans a 350 mile flight in a 19-seat aircraft in early 2023. This follows the demonstration of a fuel cell powertrain in a passenger flight earlier this year in the first HyFlyer project. ZeroAvia expects a  long-distance flight of 250 miles in the next three months.  By 2026, the company plans flights over 500 miles range in aircraft with up to 80 seats, and by 2030 over 1,000-mile flights in aircraft with over 100 seats.  

The current ZA-600 600kW hydrogen-electric powertrain is platform-agnostic and can be used in commercial short haul and cargo aircraft such as theCessna 208 Caravan and the Viking Air DHC-6 Twin Otter.

The company has also raised £16m ($21.4m) in Series A venture funding from Amazon Climate Pledge Fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Ecosystem Integrity Fund, Horizons Ventures, Shell Ventures, and Summa Equity. 

The company is also part of the Hangar 51 aircraft technology accelerator programme run by IAG, the parent company of British Airways.

The grant funding comes from InnovateUK and the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI).

“We are delighted with the ATI’s decision to back our 19-seat powertrain development programme. This project is instrumental for delivering a market-ready hydrogen powered solution for 2023 that makes passenger-ready zero carbon aviation a reality,” said Val Miftakhov, CEO of ZeroAvia. “It once again demonstrates the ‘Jet Zero’ ambition of the UK Government to take a leading role in making flight sustainable and we are proud that they have put their faith in us again to deliver another milestone for hydrogen-electric aviation.” 

“Our most recent milestone achievements are closing the gap for the airline industry to begin its transition away from fossil fuels. In fact, over ten forward-looking airlines are now gearing up to implement our powertrains when they are ready in 2023,” said Miftakhov. “Both aviation and the financial markets are waking up to the idea that hydrogen is the only meaningful path towards large-scale, zero-emission commercial flight. Powering a 100-seat plane on hydrogen is not out of the question. We feel deeply grateful to our top-tier investors for joining us in the next phase of our exciting journey; to bring in a new golden age of aviation.” 

EMEC will provide the hydrogen fuelling systems using renewable energy required to power the aircraft for flight tests, including through mobile fuelling platforms suited to airport environments.

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