+VIDEO A Silicon Valley startup called ZeroAvia has developed a flying prototype of a Piper Matrix powered by an electric motor fed from a hydrogen fuel cell.
ZeroAvia plans to scale up the propulsion system and start supplying commercial operators and aircraft manufacturers in 2022, initially targeting up to 500-mile regional flights in 10 to 20-seat fixed-wing aircraft.
“With land transport rapidly decarbonizing, fast-growing air transport is quickly becoming the leading emission source, so we must find ways to make aviation more sustainable,” said Val Miftakhov, ZeroAvia founder and CEO.
“Using hydrogen produced from local renewable energy is the most practical way to enable zero-emission aircraft of commercially meaningful size on traditional 300 to 500-mile regional missions.
“It will also be more economical than conventional turbine engines, or even the battery-based systems, on the total cost basis.
“We calculate the total costs of operating a ZeroAvia aircraft to be close to half of what it costs to fly a conventional turbine aircraft, due to lower fuel input costs, higher powertrain efficiency, and reduced maintenance costs.”
The company is already flight testing its powertrain prototype in a Piper M-Class airframe, operating under an FAA Experimental R&D certificate.
The aircraft has completed a variety of test flights, which ZeroAvia says has validated key components and their integration into a complete powertrain system. These tests confirm the company’s “fuel” economy and maximum power delivery targets.
In addition to passenger transport, ZeroAvia says its powertrain will have applications across other operations including cargo, air taxi, agriculture, as well as across the aircraft types, including manned and unmanned fixed-wing, rotorcraft, and everywhere in between.