Hydrogen-powered aviation start-up to open facility in Everett
ZeroAvia, a startup with facilities in the UK and California that aims to integrate hydrogen fuel cells with electric motors to power zero-emission planes, announced on Tuesday that it would open a new research center in the Everett Paine Field Airport.
The project received a $ 350,000 grant from the Department of Commerce, as part of the state’s efforts to promote “clean energy” technology here. It is expected to provide employment for an initial team of approximately 20 design and software engineers.
In addition to the grant, ZeroAvia is using $ 5.5 million of its own funds to rent and prepare the site for launch. Spokeswoman Sarah Malpeli said the company plans to move into space in February.
ZeroAvia’s zero carbon propulsion system is in its early stages of development. He made his first and only experimental flight to date in September, flying a six-seater Piper in England for eight minutes.
Everett’s engineering team will focus on a much bigger step: converting a 76-seat Q400 regional turbo-prop aircraft offered by Alaska Airlines, the largest aircraft ever considered for such a conversion, to hydrogen.
ZeroAvia initially leases a Snohomish County-owned warehouse and office space at the south end of the airport, airport spokeswoman Kristin Banfield said.
Later, however, ZeroAvia plans to move into a hangar and offices across from the passenger terminal, a facility shared with Alaska Airlines.
In October, Alaska agreed to donate the retired Q400 to ZeroAvia as part of its support for creating a sustainable aviation future. A spokesperson said on Tuesday they planned to hand the plane over to ZeroAvia “later this year”.
If hydrogen-powered planes work, it will take years and millions of dollars to design, produce and certify an aircraft that can carry passengers.
In December, ZeroAvia secured its final round of funding with $ 35 million from United Airlines and Alaska Air. This brought the company’s total funding to $ 115 million, with previous investments from venture capital funds including Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund and others.
Led by Russian-born Val Miftakhov, formerly of Google and the McKinsey consultancy firm, ZeroAvia also received a grant from the UK government.
Paul Eremenko, CEO of Los Angeles-based startup Universal Hydrogen, has a similar goal and plans to convert a small 50-seat regional jet to hydrogen at Moses Lake in downtown Washington. In an interview last summer, Eremenko estimated that he will have to spend around $ 300 million to get these regional jets certified.
These pioneers in electric and hydrogen aviation must not only overcome technological barriers, but also face harsh business realities.
A whole new logistics infrastructure to supply hydrogen fuel to airports is needed.
And when airplanes are equipped with this technology, much of the interior space is taken up by hydrogen fuel and the cooling and control systems that integrate it with electric motors. The conversion of Universal Hydrogen will require tearing 10 seats to make room for this equipment, so the plane will become a 40 seat plane.
It is not known whether such hydrogen-powered planes will be able to operate economically.
Also in the Pacific Northwest, electric motor company MagniX is developing a line of electric aircraft motors that can be fitted to small propeller-driven planes, including the Cessna Caravan and the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver seaplane, and on the all-new, new Alice-passenger electric aircraft under development in Arlington, Snohomish County.
State Director of Commerce Lisa Brown said in a statement that “Supporting innovation is essential to transform our traditional industries and accelerate the growth of new clusters that will keep the state’s economies vibrant and of the Washington area for years to come. “
In a separate development at Paine Field, Banfield said Alaska Airlines is taking over a large hangar next to the passenger terminal that was vacated last year by aircraft maintenance and repair company ATS. Alaska plans to perform maintenance there on the Embraer E175 regional jets that it flies from the airport.