ZeroAvia, a start-up that is using a hydrogen-electric system to power aircraft, raised $21.4 million in an early stage funding round from investors including Amazon, which will help boost the next phase of its research and development.
The fundraising was led by Bill Gates-backed Breakthrough Energy Ventures and California-based sustainability-focused venture capital Ecosystem Integrity Fund, the company said in a statement. Other investors also include Horizons Ventures, Shell Ventures and Summa Equity.
“We feel deeply grateful to our top-tier investors for joining us in the next phase of our exciting journey … to bring in a new golden age of aviation,” Val Miftakhov, founder and chief executive of the start-up, said.
“Both aviation and the financial markets are waking up to the idea that hydrogen is the only meaningful path towards large-scale, zero-emission commercial flight. Powering a 100-seat plane on hydrogen is not out of the question,” he added.
The company was also awarded a $16.3m grant from the UK government to ensure its 19-seat hydrogen-electric airplane is ready for the market by 2023. This brings the new funding to $37.7m, boosting its total funding since inception to $49.7m.
“This project is instrumental for delivering a market-ready hydrogen powered solution for 2023 that makes passenger-ready zero carbon aviation a reality,” Mr Miftakhov said.
“Our achievements are closing the gap for the airline industry to begin its transition away from fossil fuels ... over 10 forward-looking airlines are now gearing up to implement our powertrains when they are ready in 2023.”
ZeroAvia, which is based in London and California, has also teamed up with British Airways to explore the possibilities of using hydrogen to power commercial jets.
The new investments follow the completion of the UK’s first-ever commercial battery-electric flight in June and the first hydrogen fuel cell-powered flight by a six-seater plane in September.
In the next three months, the company aims to demonstrate its technology in long-distance flights of more than 400 kilometres.
By 2030, ZeroAvia plans to fly more than 1,600km in aircraft with more than 100 seats.
Climate change has taken centre stage and the aviation industry is increasingly under pressure to pivot to more environmentally friendly technologies and aircraft.
However, challenges to such projects include infrastructure at airports, increased funding for research and development, and incentives for airlines to retire older, less environmentally-friendly aircraft earlier than scheduled.
“We see tremendous potential for hydrogen to decarbonise transportation, a core focus of our investment strategy,” Devin Whatley, managing partner at Ecosystem Integrity Fund, said.
“With aviation being such a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions … we believe ZeroAvia offers the only near-term solution to sustainable aviation.”
ZeroAvia offers a “realistic solution" for long-range commercial flights and has already been demonstrated in commercial-scale aircraft, said Carmichael Roberts, a member of Breakthrough Energy Ventures.
“We look forward to working with them on this mission and decarbonising aviation together,” he added.