ZeroAvia, the company developing hydrogen and electric-powered aircraft for zero-emission flights, expects its first commercial passenger flights to take off in 2024.
One of the company’s 19-seat aircraft is planning to make the flight between Rotterdam’s The Hague Airport and London that year.
That plane will be fueled solely by hydrogen and is being piloted (pun intended) through a consortium that includes ZeroAvia, Royal Schiphol Group, Rotterdam The Hague Innovation Airport Foundation and the airport itself.
“Boarding a zero-emission flight from Rotterdam to London is only the beginning of green aviation, and that will only be made possible by pioneering and promoting innovation in the sector,” said Ron Louwerse, CEO, of Rotterdam the Hague Airport, in a statement. “With the Netherlands as the testing ground for aviation, we strengthen our competitive position, knowledge base, and business climate.”
It’s a definitive milestone for the first zero-emission commercial flight between the UK and the Netherlands and could be the first zero-emission international flight taken anywhere in the world.
No operator has been selected for the international route yet, but the announcement comes on the wings of other maneuvers that ZeroAvia has made in the airline industry.
Earlier this week, the company announced an agreement with Alaska Air Group, the parent company of Alaska Airlines, to develop a 76-seat regional aircraft capable of flying over 500 nautical miles.
As part of that deal, Alaska Air Group joined investors like Amazon Climate Pledge Fund and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the billionaire-backed investment firm founded by Bill Gates.
“Alaska is committed to creating a sustainable future for aviation, working on all aspects of a five-part path toward our goal of net zero by 2040,” said Diana Birkett Rakow, vice president of public affairs and sustainability for Alaska Airlines in a statement. “We are honored to partner with ZeroAvia’s innovative and forward-thinking team, to support their progress developing zero-emissions aviation, and to collaborate for real-world hydrogen aviation success.”
Working with Alaska Air, ZeroAvia will scale up the existing powertrain platform to a target of producing between 2,000 and 5,000 kilowatts fo power with a 500-mile range.
The partnership will initially deploy that propulsion technology into a full-size De Havilland Q400 aircraft, which was previously operated by Alaska Air Group subsidiary Horizon Air Industries, Inc., capable of transporting 76 passengers.
Alaska also put in an order for 50 kits to start converting its regional aircraft to ZeroAvia’s hybrid powertrain, starting with the 80-seat Q400.
“The aviation industry is one of the hardest industries to decarbonize; however, with this collaboration, we are one step closer to achieving our goal of making our skies emission-free,” said Val Miftakhov, CEO and founder of ZeroAvia. “We are thrilled to see Alaska taking the lead to implement clean technologies into their operations and look forward to putting boots on the ground with Alaska’s team.”
Meanwhile in the Netherlands, ZeroAvia will work with the Royal Schiphol Grop on testing and demonstrating hydrogen supply chain refueling operations and integration with existing airport operations.
Recently, ZeroAvia also successfully ground-tested its 600kW powertrain capable of flying airframes 10–20 seats in size 500 miles, is well advanced in preparing a 19-seat aircraft for flight testing at Cotswold Airport in the UK and is moving to full-size prototype manufacturing of its 2,000 kW engine for demonstrations in 2022.
Backstopping all of this dealmaking is an agreement between MHIRJ, the newly formed company forged from the combination of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Bombardier’s Canadian Regional Jet division.
The two companies have agreed to jointly develop a hydrogen-electric propulsion system for regional aircraft.
Currently, it is working to convert a larger 19-seat Dornier 228 aircraft with its zero-emissions powertrain with a first test flight expected in the coming months. ZeroAvia plans certification and market entry for its 19-seat powertrain by 2024, with an eye towards larger aircraft (50–80 seats) by 2026, and regional jets around 2028.
“Developing aviation solutions for the future requires a re-assessment of their environmental impact and developing new technologies to ensure that aviation lives up to the commitments required to meet carbon reduction targets,” said Hiro Yamamoto, President and CEO of MHIRJ in a statement. “Regional aircraft are key to keeping smaller communities and regions connected and are also more able to exploit the new technologies on the horizon than larger aircraft and, therefore this is a logical place for this development to begin and we are proud to be a part of this innovative solution.”