Hydrogen-powered planes take off with startup’s test flight

Aviation accounts for about 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the industry is growing rapidly. While airlines and some industry groups have pledged to cut emissions to net zero by 2050, the demands of aviation may be difficult to meet without fossil fuels.

Hydrogen fuel cells are one potential pathway that some companies hope will help reduce emissions from aviation. But in order to make significant reductions in industry emissions, the technology will need to scale up the operation of relatively large aircraft.

“This puts us directly on the path to commercial launch,” Val Mutakhov, founder and CEO of ZeroAvia, said at a press conference announcing the test flight.

ZeroAvia has raised over $140 million in funding from investors, including United Airlines and American Airlines, as well as Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Bill Gates’ energy venture fund. The company has also received more than 1,500 pre-orders from customers for its hydrogen fuel cell systems, according to Muftakhov.

The startup has made test flights for several years with smaller aircraft, with varying success. In 2021, it was one of ZeroAvia’s test flights It was forced to land and the aircraft was damaged After turning off the battery backup system. With only hydrogen fuel cells running, the aircraft lost power to its electric motors.

The last test flight in January 2023 of the 19-seater, which has been postponed From summer 2022, supported by the battery system throughout the flight. The batteries provide about 50% of the power for the left side of the plane, while the hydrogen fuel cell system provides the other 50%.

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