ZeroAvia Announces Progress On Hydrogen-Electric Aircraft Programs

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U.K.-government-backed ZeroAvia has acquired a pair of Dornier 228 twin turboprops to use as test beds for its Hyflyer II development phase involving 600-kW hydrogen-electric powerplants. One of the 19-seat former regional airliners will be based at Kemble, U.K., and the second at ZeroAvia’s U.S. location in Hollister, California. The 19-seat aircraft will have hydrogen fuel tanks designed to ultimately contain 100 kg of compressed gaseous hydrogen, providing an expected 500-mile range.

Hyflyer II follows up on the first R&D project, a 250-kW hydrogen fuel cell powertrain installed in a six-seat Piper Malibu. HyFlyer I achieved all its technical goals, according to ZeroAvia, though the aircraft was seriously damaged in an off-airport landing on April 29.

The company also announced it has secured $13 million in funding for its next phase—developing a hydrogen-electric powerplant for a 50+ seat airliner. Current funding for that project now totals $37 million. The new investment comes from AP Ventures, Alumni Ventures Group, SGH Capital and Agartha Fund LP. They join existing investors Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Summa Equity, Shell Ventures, SYSTEMIQ and Horizons Ventures.

Val Miftakhov, founder and CEO of ZeroAvia, said, “Various projections indicate that aviation may account for over 25 percent of human-induced climate effects by 2050. We are on the path to helping reverse that trend. Hydrogen is the only practical solution for true climate-neutral flight, and it will become a commercial reality much sooner than many predict.”

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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17 COMMENTS

  1. The problem with hydrogen isn’t that fuel cells don’t work – we have decades of experience with them. It isn’t that you can’t make a hydrogen ICE is you want to go that way – it’s pretty straightforward. The problem is the manufacture, transportation, and storage of hydrogen. We have decades of experience with that too. It’s less an engineering problem than a physics problem.

    • Fuel cells do work, at least in niche applications, using hydrogen fuel.

      OTOH ‘reformer’ input stages to use liquid fuel are a problem, perhaps a bit less so for alcohol (methanol) which is not widely distributed in quantity for retail use. Jugs of ‘methyl hydrate’ can be purchased, such as from paint stores.

      But the whole hydrogen notion is based on a false theory, not true evidence as aviation is built on.

  2. Hydrogen uses a terrible amount of energy to produce and store and transport. It also has a very low energy density when compared to other liquid fuels.

    A side note: the assertion that aviation is (or would be) a driver of global climate is unreasonable and scientifically unsupportable.

    • Oh, but just put up a zillion solar panels and windmills and hydro-electric dams.
      /sarc

      A discussion being had regarding electric cars, some people say the amount of electricity needed for changing is very large in total.

  3. Hey, with electric, hydrogen, and the climate scam how can it fail?

    Oh, wait – what is Britain’s record of success with government subsidized projects? Brabazon anyone? Concorde anyone?

    (Accurate temperature sensors such as weather balloons and satellites, and government tide gages collated at PSMSL.org, show only continued slow rate of rise of average temperature of earth’s climate since about 1750 when the long cool era ended.

    The ‘saturation effect’ from overlap of absorption-emission spectra of greenhouse gases carbon dioxide limits possible temperature rise from human use of fossil fuels to a small amount most of which has already been realized. IPCC agrees.

    But IPCC theorizes runaway warming from that small rise, never mind that climate was stable in the warmer Medieval Warm Period when Vikings farmed southwest Greenland.

    • Correction as words omitted:
      The ‘saturation effect’ from overlap of absorption-emission spectra of greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and dihydrogen monoxide vapour limits possible temperature rise from human use of fossil fuels to a small amount most of which has already been realized. IPCC agrees.

      There’s a panicking mentality in society, such as with the conspiracy theory of child abuse chronicled in https://www.cbc.ca/radio/uncover/new-podcast-explores-how-satanic-panic-overtook-a-saskatchewan-town-1.5449917.
      In the climate scam promoters have an agenda from their negative view of humans, which comes from Plato’s two-worlds theory that denies effectiveness of the human mind for life, it leads to revering elites such as the religious groups who mistreated children in the ‘residential schools’ that are in the news today. Climate scammers have an apocalyptic mentality.
      In contrast, Aristotle taught one world that humans can understand – aviation is a shining example of that, then Ayn Rand explained why ethics/morality is grounded in the basic requirements for life..

      • This comments section has devolved into full-blown soap box for pseudoscience. This one takes the cake with wholly irrelevant references toyThis saturation effect? Some new wacky theory that some polysci pundit came up with. For the definitive counter-example, Google the planet Venus.

        • Isn’t it interesting and odd that eco-catastrophists sneer instead of producing actual science – like studying the basic physics of molecules of gas especially in the category of ‘greenhouse gas’ which are defined by a particular energy property?

          They illustrate that their means of knowledge is emotions, so when they cannot debate rationally they become emotional – sneering and sometimes violent. But it is good to know who the devious incompetents are.

          • And they will likely go broke – the failure rate of startups is high, on top of that when something is politically popular snakes come out wanting taxpayer money and selling shady investments.

            At least ZeroAvia has flown something, whereas Arion supersonic did not even have a prototype – it has folded. (Boom Supersonic in contrast built a serious demonstrator aircraft that should fly ‘any day now’ as software people like its co-founder are wont to say. And Boom is flying its pilot vision system already, in a small airplane.)

  4. I am not advocating HFC or direct combustion of hydrogen in an ICE powerplant. I still think that fossil fuel is a plentiful American resource and should be used fully and responsibly.

    In general I am against the (pseudo)green push using our hard earned tax dollars for electrification to make the panic-stricken greeniacs feel better about themselves.

    All I am saying is that IF a company wanted an electric powerplant that batteries will not work due to power density and excessive weight and HFC could theoretically work as could hydrogen burned as an ICE fuel. I still think its a dumb idea as countless dinosaurs and peat bogs have died to provide us with inexpensive (except as inflated by the government) and plentiful power.

  5. I will also add to the comments that aviation using hydrogen fuel cells or using hydrogen directly in turbine or piston engines is possible. However hydrogen is fraught with problems. It has a low volumetric energy density and if pressurized must be stored in relatively heavy high pressure tanks. It is relatively energy expensive to make especially if you are trying to be “green” and even more expensive if you try to liquefy it. It leaks thru everything and all you can do is slow down the rate of leakage. It also damages some materials. I think that there are better “more or less green” liquid fuels available including ethanol, isobutanol, synthetic kerosene type fuels, DME, etc. Maybe even ammonia (NH3).

    I do think that battery powered planes will start to make small inroads. Off course, there are already a few self-launching sailplanes. The first will probably be basic trainers. Even if you are not worried about greenhouse gases, economics will drive this. I have seen a projected $23/hr all up cost compared to over $100/hr for a Cessna 172. I current drive a Chevy Bolt and also have a 3/4 ton crew cab long bed pickup. The Bolt costs less than 3 cents a mile to drive and has no scheduled maintenance and is just fun to drive. The pickup is north of 10 times the cost of the Bolt to drive. I do not know if Bye Aerospace or Eviation Alice will succeed in developing their commuter aircraft or not (personally, I would not invest my own money in them) but I do expect that it is coming. Again, it will be economics driving this as Bye was projecting a seat mile cost about 1/10 that of a Beechcraft King Air. It will probably take longer than projected and more than a few pioneers will end up with arrows in their backs or at least in bankruptcy court.

    Is it theoretically possible to build long range battery powered aircraft to compete with a 787? Maybe. Lithium air batteries have a theoretical energy density close to gasoline. (40.1 MJ/kg for lithium-air compared to 46.8 MJ/kg for gasoline.) And the efficiency of the electric power train is much higher. However, I would not expect to see this for at least 2 decades and probably more.

    • Hydrogen leaked into an enclosed space is dangerous.

      Ammonia is very bad for your lungs.

      As for costs of your vehicles, you need to consider wearout of batteries, some have short life. Hopefully getting longer, need solid warranty plus recorder to prove you didn’t leave it sitting for two weeks in a low state of charge. (Some Tesla fools found that after driving to the airport then flying out on vacation they had an expensive brick.)

      As for ‘zero emissions’ that’s a scam that omits emissions in mining and manufacturing.