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ZeroAvia Secures Funding for Commercial Aircraft Engine Development

With new funding, ZeroAvia is accelerating development of larger zero-emission hydrogen-electric powertrains for commercial airliner applications. (ZeroAvia/)

The ongoing research and development by ZeroAvia to produce zero-emission hydrogen-electric powertrains for planned commercial aircraft models has been accelerated by a new round of private equity funding of $24.3 million. The new amount raised brings the company’s total private investment to over $53 million, and the total funding raised since inception to nearly $74 million.

The new investments are led by Horizons Ventures, joined by a new investor, British Airways. Existing investors that participated in the new round of financing include Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which was established in 2015 by Bill Gates and a coalition of private investors, Ecosystem Integrity Fund, Summa Equity, Shell Ventures, and SYSTEMIQ.

With the new funding, ZeroAvia is launching the development program for a 2 megawatt hydrogen-electric powertrain for full-size regional aircraft, with a target of 2026 for a 50-plus-seat regional airliner, and 2030 for a 100-seat single-aisle model. ZeroAvia said they expect to achieve commercialization for its hydrogen-electric powertrain as early as 2024 by initially targeting a 500-mile range in 10- to 20-seat aircraft used for commercial passenger transport, package delivery, and agriculture.

“It is evident that the world is moving closer to zero-emission flying, and this new funding round is another indicator that people are ready to make the jump to sustainable aviation,” said Val Miftakhov, CEO and founder of ZeroAvia. “Scaling our powertrain design towards 50-plus-seat aircraft is where the rubber hits the road in carbon intensity impact, and we’re excited to lead in this new era of hydrogen-powered innovation.”

ZeroAvia’s achievements to date are the first steps in realizing the near-term transition from fossil fuels to zero-emission hydrogen as an alternative source for commercial aviation. The progress has now drawn the attention of British Airways, which has a goal of 2050 to reach true zero emissions.

“Innovative zero-emissions technology is advancing fast, and we support the development of hydrogen as an alternative fuel source,” said Sean Doyle, British Airways’ CEO. “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 company continues to scale its global operations, ZeroAvia also announced the addition of three new members to its senior team. Christine Ourmières-Widener is a former vice president and general manager, USA, for Air France-KLM, and previously served on the Board of Governors for the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Mike Friend is a retired Boeing senior technology director and consultant for Mitsubishi Aircraft and led a Boeing Phantom Works project in Spain in the early 2000s that resulted in the world’s first manned hydrogen-electric airplane flight. And Mark Blair—a retired FedEx VP of air operations and a former director of fleet and government sales for Cessna Aircraft Company—brings his extensive knowledge in package delivery applications of various sizes of aircraft to ZeroAvia.

The private equity investments in ZeroAvia’s mission are coming from firms all with a long history of funding innovative, disruptive companies. Horizons Ventures, the private investment arm of Li Ka-shing, is a leading investor in some of the world’s most innovative companies and disruptive technologies, including Facebook, Spotify, and Zoom. Breakthrough Energy Ventures invests in cutting-edge companies that will help lead the world to net-zero emissions, with more than $2 billion in committed capital. Ecosystem Integrity Fund invests in early growth-stage companies contributing to environmental sustainability across multiple sectors, while Summa Equity focuses on companies with the “potential for long-term sustainable outperformance.” Shell Ventures was one of the first corporate venture funds in the oil and gas industry, working with innovative companies to commercialize solutions that can accelerate energy and mobility transformation. Finally, SYSTEMIQ is a leading consulting and investment firm working to prevent the worst effects of climate change with investments in early-venture technologies that can accelerate the transition to cleaner energies.

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