On March 31, 2021, aviation startup ZeroAvia secured $24.3 million in funding from the UK branch of China-based Horizons Ventures in conjunction with British Airways. The company’s existing investors that include Summa Equity, Shell Ventures, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, SYSTEMIQ, and Ecosystem Integrity Fund also participated in this round of funding, bringing ZeroAvia’s total private funding to over $53 million, and the company’s total funds raised to $74 million since its founding.
The chief purpose of this round of funding is the development of a 2MW hydrogen-electric powertrain designed for full-size regional aircraft with 50 or more seats. As airlines seek to reduce emissions with a more climate-conscious consumer base, zero-emission hydrogen-powered flights may be key to their recovery in the post-COVID era that decimated the travel industry.
UK Government Grants for Sustainable Aerospace Technology
Investors and the UK’s airline industry are feeling optimistic about the future of sustainable energy in aviation. The UK government announced the awarding of a £12.3 million grant ($16.3 million USD) through the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), and Innovate UK to produce a hydrogen-electric powered aircraft that can seat 19, and will be market-ready by 2023.
Simultaneously, ZeroAvia announced its $21.4 million series A funding designated for accelerating the 600kW development program aiming for commercial readiness by 2024.
ZeroAvia Vies to Tap Commercial 50+ Seat Aircraft Market By 2026
With private and grant funding from Horizon Ventures and the UK government, ZeroAvia expects its proprietary hydrogen-electric power to be commercialized as quickly as 2024. Val Miftakhov, CEO and founder of ZeroAvia, states:
“This new funding, in conjunction with our other recent milestones, will significantly accelerate our path to zero-emission solutions for larger regional aircraft at a commercial scale. With many airlines lining up and ready to make the shift to zero-emissions, we expect to see wide-scale adoption of this technology. We are extremely grateful for our investors who are helping to speed up our progress and ultimately the aviation industry’s adoption of zero-emission flight.”
Currently, ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-powered solutions for the aviation industry target 10-20 seat aircraft making short-haul flights under 500 miles. While some are used for commercial passenger transport, these aircraft are primarily used for logistics and agricultural purposes. With the significant amount of capital raised, ZeroAvia is striving to enter the 50+ seat commercial air travel segment by 2026, and the 100-seat single-aisle aircraft market by 2030.
Sustainability Will Be Key for Commercial Air Travel to Rebound
The current round of funding is propelling ZeroAvia to achieve its goals and transition the aviation industry away from fossil fuels and to zero-emission, sustainable energy sources like hydrogen.
Sean Doyle, British Airways’ CEO, states:
“Innovative zero-emissions technology is advancing fast, and we support the development of hydrogen as an alternative fuel source because we believe it has the potential to enable us to reach true zero emissions on short-haul routes by 2050. There is a huge amount of energy and excitement building around the possibilities of a zero-emissions future for aviation, and while there is no single solution to this challenge, we acknowledge the need for urgent action to tackle the impact flying currently has on our planet and are making progress on our journey to net zero.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged business and pleasure travel alike, consumer preferences are also shifting away from flying due to concerns about the climate, even as countries like the United States are seeing a slight rebound in commercial flights. ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-fueled powertrain technology is seeking to replace fossil fuels that currently power most commercial aircraft, simultaneously reducing harmful emissions as well as ongoing maintenance and operating costs.
ZeroAvia completed its first electrically powered flight in the United States in 2019 before building a second prototype in the UK that flew in June 2020. ZeroAvia has the distinction of achieving the world’s first hydrogen-electric flight on a commercial aircraft in September 2020 and recently performed ground simulation for its first cross-country flight. The ground test revealed that a complete removal of the battery system is possible using the company’s unique fuel-cell powertrain configuration should the battery fully shut down in-flight.
As airlines undergo an embattled post-pandemic recovery, there will be a strong incentive to keep operating costs lean with new fuel types. Additionally, sustainability will be key to winning back customers’ trust in airlines’ environmental stewardship.
ZeroAvia is a global leader in zero-emission aviation with an emphasis on hydrogen-electric power solutions for a variety of aviation markets, namely the 500-mile range and 10-20 seat aircraft markets. With operations in the United States and United Kingdom, ZeroAvia has secured experimental certificates for its prototype aircraft from both the CAA and FAA, surpassed major milestones with its flight tests, and is on track for commercialization by 2024. The company is supported by Horizon Ventures, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, and its UK operations are supported by Innovate UK, the Aerospace Technology Institute. ZeroAvia is also part of the UK Government’s Jet Zero Council.