Propulsion systems developer ZeroAvia has raised an additional $37.7 million to support its plans to bring converted hydrogen-electric aircraft into commercial service in 2023. In a December 16 announcement, the California-based start-up said it raised $21.4 million through a Series A round backed by a group of venture capitalists and secured a further $16.3 million from the UK government-backed Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI).
The Series A round was led by Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures and the Ecosystem Integrity Fund, as well as existing backers Amazon Climate Pledge Fund, Horizons Ventures, Shell Ventures, and Summa Equity. The additional ATI grant is to support ZeroAvia’s contribution to the HyFlyer II project, which is seeking to develop a 19-seat aircraft capable of flying 350 miles by early 2023.
In related news, British Airways announced a partnership with ZeroAvia to explore options for introducing hydrogen-powered aircraft. The UK carrier will assign technical staff to help define how the zero-emission fuel could be integrated with its fleet of aircraft.
The partnership will be conducted under the auspices of British Airways’ parent group IAG and its Hangar 51 technology accelerator program. “At the end of the program, research and learnings from the process will be shared and the ZeroAvia and Hangar 51 teams will consider how the partnership will progress in the longer term,” said British Airways in a statement.
The Series A funding is intended to support ZeroAvia’s wider plan to certify its ZA-600 hydrogen-electric powertrain that is intended to support aircraft seating between 10 and 20 passengers on flights as long as 575 miles. Following a short demonstration flight conducted at the UK’s Cranfield airfield in September, the company said it intends to make a 250-mile flight by the end of March 2021.
Plans to make the long-distance flight from the Orkney Islands to the UK mainland by the end of 2020 had to be abandoned due to unfavorable weather conditions. The flight is now expected to be conducted “closer to Cranfield.”
According to ZeroAvia founder and CEO Val Miftakhov, 10 unnamed airlines have made commitments to use the company’s powertrains from 2023. “Both aviation and financial markets are waking up to the idea that hydrogen is the only path towards large-scale, zero-emission commercial flight,” he commented. “Powering a 100-seat plane on hydrogen is not out of the question.”
By 2026, ZeroAvia says its technology will be able to support 80-seat aircraft flying over 500 miles. By 2030, it envisages 1,000 mile sectors with aircraft carrying more than 100 passengers. The company has raised a total of $49.7 million.