”In three years’ time, we are going to have in commercial operation the first aircraft powered by hydrogen-electric engines, and you will be able to buy a ticket to one of your favourite destinations.”
That’s what ZeroAvia founder and CEO Dr. Val Mifthakov told viewers watching the final instalment of H2 View’s three-part series of webinars, powered by gasworld TV, and hosted by H2 View’s Managing Editor Rob Cockerill, today.
Founded in 2017, ZeroAvia is currently developing a new type of engine based on hydrogen fuel cells that aims to transform the highly pollutant aerospace industry into a cleaner sector.
“Our first product is on track to go to market in about three years, it’s going through certification and everything at the interim time, and that will power a 10 to 20 seat sub-regional aircraft.”
“Let’s say if you’re in the UK, you could go from the London area to Edinburgh area or a similar distance like that on one of those.”
“There’s about 10,000 of those worldwide in commercial operation, an we’re targeting all of those, the sub 500 miles initially, which is most of the trips probably 95% of the trips those small aircrafts fly.”
“That’s just the first step. The next step for us is the 50 to 80 seat aircraft, which we’re hoping to get to the market by 2026/2027, and then we’ll move on to the 100+ seat type jet replacement, and that would go to market hopefully within 10 years.”
Talking to viewers live from California, Miftakhov highlighted the critical role hydrogen will play in aviation and correspondingly the critical role aviation will have for hydrogen adoption in transport.
“I’m a pilot myself, so this is also a personal passion. It was pretty clear to me having flown personally and also commercially for my work over the years that the impact of aviation is becoming larger and larger and larger,” he said.
“The big problem in aviation is that it is probably one of the hardest industries to decarbonise, to clean up. It’s not only about the carbon emissions, the CO2 part is only part of the story.”
“And nobody had a solution, so three years ago we set out to start solving that and we looked at a number of different options.”
“We looked at battery-electric, hybrid-electric, biofuels and synthetic fuels, and in the end decided that the best way to address the problem is hydrogen-electric.”
“The reason for that is hydrogen has actually higher energy content per unit of weight compared to jet fuel (2X) and batteries (50X or lower), so you have two orders of magnitude difference, that’s the fundamental and physical difference.”
“Second, why don’t we want to burn hydrogen or burn synthetic fuel? It’s because burning things is inherently less efficient than running fuel through the fuel cell and utilising the efficiency and controllability of an electric drive train after that.”
“In small aircrafts, 10 to 20 seats that we’re initially targeting, a typical efficiency is just half of the fuel cell powertrain efficiency so you need more fuel, twice as much fuel to actually get that level of propulsion. All of that made us choose the hydrogen-electric approach.”