Airbus, Barclays Sustainable Impact Capital and NEOM have co-led the company’s latest financing round, along with Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Horizons Ventures, Alaska Airlines, Ecosystem Integrity Fund, Summa Equity, AP Ventures and Amazon Climate Pledge Fund.
In conjunction with the investment, Airbus and ZeroAvia have agreed to collaborate on certification approaches for hydrogen power systems. The companies also intend to work together on a number of critical technical areas, including liquid hydrogen fuel storage, flight and ground testing of fuel cell propulsion systems, and development of hydrogen refueling infrastructure and operations.
ZeroAvia is pursuing hydrogen-electric propulsion systems as the most environmentally friendly and economically attractive solution to aviation’s growing climate change impact. The company’s hydrogen-electric engines use hydrogen in fuel cells to generate electricity, which is then used to power electric motors to turn the aircraft’s propellers, with the only byproduct during flight being water.
Airbus is a global leader in fostering alternative propulsion using hydrogen. Fuel cell systems are an important part of its ZEROe aircraft concepts programme, designed to deliver low-carbon emission airframes of various sizes. The industry major has recently ground tested a hydrogen engine concept at 1.2 MW power.
First stage of flight testing
The investment will support ZeroAvia’s continued growth and technology development, most notably progressing its first product – ZA600 – through to certification. ZeroAvia recently completed the first stage of flight testing of the prototype ZA600 and is moving to complete design work ahead of certification, targeting 2025 entry-in-service to support up to 20 seat aircraft.
The funding will also enable ZeroAvia to continue to progress its larger engine programme – the ZA2000, a 2-5.4 MW modular powertrain designed to support larger commercial aircraft applications. The company is working on retrofitting a Dash 8 400 76-seat testbed demonstrator provided by Alaska Airlines, with a view to first flight testing with a full size engine in 2024. The investment will help ZeroAvia extend the leadership it has established across core in-house technologies for multi-MW class hydrogen-electric engines, including high temperature PEM (HTPEM) fuel cells, advanced electric motors and power electronics, and onboard liquid hydrogen fuel storage.
Val Miftakhov, Founder and CEO, ZeroAvia, said: “Anybody following the development of hydrogen aviation – and its potential to transform the industry – will see this investment as a positive step. Airbus has led the way with its zero-emission vision and its commitment to extensive R&D programs. For ZeroAvia to now have investors such as Airbus coming on board is the strongest possible validation of the prospects for hydrogen-electric propulsion technology.”
“ZeroAvia has already been successful in flight testing fuel cell propulsion, and hydrogen storage and distribution systems on board their Do-228 flight test platform which puts them in a strong position to take their technologies to the next phase of development,” said Glenn Llewellyn, Airbus Vice President ZEROe aircraft. “In addition, ZeroAvia is supporting the development of a wider hydrogen ecosystem for aviation – technologies, decarbonised hydrogen supply and certification of hydrogen propulsion systems – which all complement well with our own ambition to bring a ZEROe hydrogen powered aircraft to service by 2035.”
Andy Challis, Co-Head of Principal Investments, Barclays, said: “Replacing fossil fuels with green hydrogen has been identified as a key decarbonisation pathway for hard to abate sectors, such as aviation. Our Sustainable Impact Capital portfolio is one of many ways which Barclays is supporting green-tech companies to innovate and scale, recognising that doing so at speed is crucial for a timely transition to net zero. ZeroAvia has shown that with ambition, technological innovation and the right support from both the public and private sector, it is possible to scale and implement such hydrogen technologies at pace, as evidenced by the ZA600 moving ever closer to commercial flight. We’re delighted to be making a follow-on investment and look forward to seeing ZeroAvia continuing to drive change in the aviation sector.”
Majid Mufti, managing director NEOM Investment Fund, said: “At NEOM, we are committed to identifying and implementing sustainable solutions that pave the way for a greener future. Our focus on maximising renewable energy sources and fostering innovation in alternative fuel systems aligns with ZeroAvia’s pioneering efforts in hydrogen-electric propulsion technology. Developing a green hydrogen future is central to NEOM’s mission, and participating in this venture with ZeroAvia was a natural choice for us. We look forward to working closely with the company and contributing significantly to reaching that future.”