The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Airbus, Barclays, and Saudis Invest in Hydrogen Propulsion Pioneer ZeroAvia

Airbus, Barclays Sustainable Impact Capital, and the government-backed Saudi Arabian Neom regional development project this week were confirmed as the lead backers of the latest funding round for hydrogen propulsion system developer ZeroAvia. The U.S./UK-based start-up has not disclosed how much it has raised in the just-concluded round, which was also supported by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Horizons Ventures, Alaska Airlines, Ecosystem Integrity Fund, Summa Equity, AP Ventures, and Amazon Climate Pledge Fund.

According to ZeroAvia, the new capital will accelerate its efforts to secure the first supplemental type certificate it needs to convert regional airliners to use its fuel cell electric propulsion system. It expects to have a 19-seat aircraft operating commercial flights with its 600-kilowatt ZA600 powertrain in 2025. In the longer term, it aims to scale up the technology to develop the ZA2000 system, with up to 5.4-megawatt power, for aircraft with up to around 80 seats, such as the Dash 8 family.

Airbus has been working on plans to develop hydrogen-powered airliners carrying up to 200 passengers on routes of around 2,000 nautical miles by the mid-2030s. As part of its ZeroE project, the European aerospace group has ground-tested a 1.2-megawatt hydrogen engine concept.

“ZeroAvia has already been successful in flight testing fuel cell propulsion, and hydrogen storage and distribution systems on board their Do-228 flight test platform, which puts them in a strong position to take their technologies to the next phase of development,” said Glenn Llewellyn, Airbus vice president for ZeroE aircraft. “In addition, ZeroAvia is supporting the development of a wider hydrogen ecosystem for aviation—technologies, decarbonized hydrogen supply, and certification of hydrogen propulsion systems—which all complement well with our ambitious plans to bring a ZeroE hydrogen-powered aircraft to service by 2035.”

The Neom project is an ambitious plan to develop an entirely new city on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast. This would include an “industrial city” called Oxagon and a residential community called The Line that will extend for just over 100 miles and house one million people, who will have access to eVTOL air taxis. Vehicle developers Lilium and Volocopter have signed collaborative and provisional sales agreements with Saudi organizations, including Saudi Arabian Airlines.