ZeroAvia: Zero-Emission Solution for Aviation

ZeroAvia is developing an innovative suite of electric powertrains for aviation powered by hydrogen fuel cells

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AV Communications Team

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2 min

About a third of U.S. climate-damaging emissions come from transportation, with 12% of that total caused by aviation. Additionally, aviation emissions released at high altitudes have 2-4x the impact of comparable ground source emissions. While there are commercially available technologies for automobiles and trucks to reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions, aviation is one of the last significant industries without a solution.

Founded in 2017, Alumni Ventures portfolio company ZeroAvia is creating a zero-emission solution for aviation through an innovative suite of electric powertrains powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Current alternative fueling options either have 40x lower energy density or blend with traditional jet fuel, creating only small reductions in emissions. However, hydrogen has zero emissions and can be produced by other renewables such as solar and wind, ultimately creating a solution that can scale to a 100+ seat aircraft within 10-15 years.

Up, Up, and Away

ZeroAvia launched its first hydrogen-powered flight in 2020 in a modified six-seat Piper Malibu. The company’s powertrain has 75% lower fuel and maintenance costs, resulting in up to 50% total trip cost reduction, compared to traditional jet fuel powertrains. ZeroAvia plans to launch a commercially available powertrain by 2024 capable of powering a 10-20-seat plane and then scale to a 200-seat plane between 2030 to 2035. These powertrains will also produce 50% lower emissions than current turbines.

Photo Credit: ZeroAvia

What We Liked About ZeroAvia

Expert Team: Founder and CEO Val Miftakhov previously founded and sold eMotorWerks, a developer of electric-charging technologies for high-performance electric vehicles. The rest of ZeroAvia’s team is composed of aviation experts and hard-tech leaders with decades of relevant experience.

Sky-High Market: The aviation industry offers a significant market opportunity, with the global airlines market size alone hitting $471.8 billion in 2021. Not only is ZeroAvia targeting a high-value industry, but the company also faces minimal competition. There is currently no scalable solution to substantially reduce aircraft emissions, which many airlines and countries need to meet their emissions targets.

Established Lead Investor: ZeroAvia’s lead investor is Horizons Ventures, a Hong Kong-based VC firm founded by billionaire Li Ka-Shing. Horizons is an internationally active VC, having made approximately 200 investments — 37 of which had exits. Some of Horizons’ notable exits include Spotify, Slack, Razer, Facebook, and Zoom. 

How We Are Involved

Alumni Ventures’ Nassau Street Ventures (for the Princeton community) and Blue Ivy Ventures (for the Yale community) deployed capital in ZeroAvia’s recent $13 million funding round. The deal is also part of Alumni Ventures’ Deep Tech Fund. 

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