To continue the company's trajectory towards zero emission flight, ZeroAvia is ramping up its 19-seat aircraft programme to decarbonise regional air travel. The company will utilise two twin-engine 19-seat Dornier 228 aircraft, one in the UK and one in the US, provided respectively by Aurigny Air Services, a regional airline based in Guernsey, and AMC Aviation, a North Carolina multi-role turboprop aircraft sales and leasing specialist. Both aircraft were previously in service for regional flights in the US and UK, demonstrating the opportunity for carbon reduction on existing routes.
ZeroAvia's 19-seat R&D is part of HyFlyer II, the second ZeroAvia-led project backed by the UK Government to target the development of a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain. As part of HyFlyer I, ZeroAvia demonstrated a 250kW powerplant in a six-seat aircraft across three flight test campaigns, achieving all the project's technical goals, including fuel-cell only cruise flight. All the learnings of HyFlyer I will be utilised in the development of a 600kW 19-seater powerplant in HyFlyer II.
ZeroAvia has also secured an additional $13 million for its 50+ seat engine development programme from AP Ventures, an investor in breakthrough technologies across the hydrogen value chain, Alumni Ventures Group, SGH Capital, Agartha Fund LP and existing investors Amazon's Climate Pledge Fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Summa Equity, Shell Ventures, SYSTEMIQ and Horizons Ventures. This new funding complements the initial investment of $24 million the company announced a few weeks ago, bringing the total private investment into ZeroAvia's large engine development for 50+ seat aircraft to $37 million.
“We are eager and ready to begin testing our hydrogen-electric powertrain technology on a larger commercial-size aircraft and grateful to our investors and grant funders for their continued support of our vision for sustainable aviation,” says Val Miftakhov, founder and CEO at ZeroAvia. “Various projections indicate that aviation may account for over 25 per cent of human-induced climate effects by 2050. We are on the path to helping reverse that trend, first with our successful six-seater testing and now with the R&D for our 19-seater and the kick-off of our 50+ seat programme. Hydrogen is the only practical solution for true climate-neutral flight, and it will become a commercial reality much sooner than many predict.”
AP Ventures partner Kevin Eggers adds: “We are delighted to welcome ZeroAvia to our existing portfolio of hydrogen-related technologies. We have been impressed with the progress that ZeroAvia has made over the last 24 months, technically, operationally and commercially. Furthermore, we have become increasingly confident about the significant role of hydrogen in decarbonising aviation. We believe that ZeroAvia will pioneer the development of hydrogen-electric powertrains for the aviation space.”
For the 19-seat aircraft, two 600KW units of the company's hydrogen-electric powertrain will replace the aircraft's twin engines, along with hydrogen fuel tanks eventually holding 100kg of compressed gaseous hydrogen to support the 500-mile range of the commercial offering in 2024. Additionally, ZeroAvia is progressing the software, hardware, mechanical integration and fuel cell balance-of-plant to the certifiable state. The six-tonne aircraft will have a range of 500 nm.
“As air travel begins to increase again, political and public pressure is mounting to incorporate more sustainable technology,” says Nico Bezuidenhout, Aurigny CEO. “ZeroAvia's 19-seat initiative will not only seek to decarbonise existing regional services but also expand the reach of regional aviation by ultimately reducing seat mile cost, making smaller aircraft competitive with larger aircraft. In turn, smaller airports will become more accessible for aviation service, increasing traveller convenience and the corresponding demand for point-to-point regional air travel.”
ZeroAvia's 30,000 sq ft Cotswold airport facility in Kemble, Gloucestershire will act as the dedicated base for developing the 600kW engine class and marks a significant investment in and expansion of its UK-based R&D programme. The company's Hollister, California location will assist the UK team with testing and will be responsible for building the second demonstration aircraft for commercialisation of technology in North America. The company currently employs around 50 people, expanding to over 100 in the next 12 months across both the US and UK.
ZeroAvia has also made several key additions to its team, including its new CTO of propulsion Youcef Abdelli, formerly head of electrical system and power electronics at magniX and principal electrical and propulsion system chief engineer for Amazon Prime Air. Also joining the team is new regulatory and safety advisor Sir Tim Anderson, a former senior Royal Air Force officer, inaugural director general of the UK Military Aviation Authority, COO of Flybe Group and chairman of the UK Airspace Change Organising Group Steering Committee. Finally, Kenneth Braithwaite, the 77th secretary of the Navy, a retired US Navy admiral and a senior advisor to Summa Equity and Silicon Valley Bank, will be signing on as a board observer.