Venture Capital: Hydrogen-Electric Aviation Startup ZeroAvia Gets $21.4M From Amazon, Shell

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Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures led the funding round.

California-based ZeroAvia, a startup developing hydrogen-electric aviation solutions, announced Wednesday its raise of $21.4 million. The company will use the money to advance its program for the development of zero-emission commercial aircraft. The aviation industry is a major user of fossil fuels and the source of emissions. ZeroAvia’s powertrain uses hydrogen, which produces water when burned. (WHTC)

Top-notch investors

Investors in the round included Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS.A), and Hong Kong-based VC Horizons Ventures. Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures led the financing.

“This is a capital-intensive industry, so having investors to help you through the process is very important,” ZeroAvia Chief Executive Val Miftakhov told Reuters, saying a plane was “a power-hungry machine, especially on takeoff.”

Cumulatively, to date, ZeroAvia has raised $34.4 million.

Grants from UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute and Innovate UK partially support its expanding UK operations.

Maiden flight

In September, ZeroAvia completed the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell-powered flight of a commercial-grade aircraft.

The flight took place at the company’s R&D facility in Cranfield, England, with the Piper M-class six-seat plane completing taxi, takeoff, a full pattern circuit, and landing.

“While some experimental aircraft have flown using hydrogen fuel cells as a power source, the size of this commercially available aircraft shows that paying passengers could be boarding a truly zero-emission flight very soon,” said Miftakhov at the time.

Last week, British Airways announced a partnership with ZeroAvia in a project to explore how hydrogen-powered aircraft can play a leading role in the future of sustainable flying.

Sergey Kiselev, ZeroAvia’s Head of Europe, commented that a hydrogen-electric solution improved the sustainability of flight, improve passengers’ in-flight experience, and had the potential to lower operating costs.

Outlook

Here is a graphic of ZeroAvia’s vision for renewable hydrogen aviation.

ZeroAvia has already completed 10 test flights with a six-seater propeller plane powered by hydrogen.

In November it announced that it was selected by TIME as a Best Invention of 2020 in the Experimental Category.

It now aims to use its solution to power commercial flights of up to 500 miles using 10- to 20-seat aircraft by 2023 and commercial jets able to haul up to 200 passengers 3,000 miles by 2030.

Related Story:    U.K. Plane Manufacturer Plans Pilotless Flight By 2030

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