The Financial Times has reported on a hydrogen aviation start up, ZeroAvia, founded by Val Miftakhov, a physicist trained in Russia and at Princeton University, who has worked at McKinsey and Google, as well as having founded electric vehicle charging station network eMotorWerks, which was sold to Enel in 2017.
ZeroAvia has attracted funding from Amazon and Shell, amongst others, with Mr Miftakhov, who is also an amateur pilot, saying that his company marks “the beginning of guilt-free flying”. The company’s test planes use hydrogen fuel cells to generate electricity, rather than using the gas for combustion, though for the time being its 20-seat test plane also has a second fossil fuel-fired engine. It is aiming to have a system for fully hydrogen-powered 20-seat planes on the market in 2025, a system for 70-seater planes by 2027, and then one for a 100-seater planes by 2029.
ZeroAvia, based in the Cotswolds in the UK, is not alone. Californian company Universal Hydrogen has carried out a test-flight of a 40-seat plane partly run on a hydrogen fuel-cell engine, and is also looking to grow. What the companies have in common is the view that hydrogen will eventually win out against sustainable aviation fuels, as they believe they will offer a superior environmental footprint along with lower costs.