FAQ - ZeroAvia

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    What does ZeroAvia do?

    ZeroAvia is developing hydrogen-electric engines for aviation, in order to deliver truly zero-emission aviation as early as 2025. Our mission is to deliver hydrogen-electric engines into every aircraft, having identified the technology as the most practical, economical, and furthest reaching solution for reducing aviation’s climate change and clean air impacts.

    What is hydrogen-electric?

    Hydrogen-electric engines use hydrogen in fuel cells to generate electricity, which is then used to power electric motors to turn the aircraft’s propellers, with the only byproduct being water.

    Why hydrogen-electric as opposed to other solutions?

    As one of the hardest to abate sectors, aviation is predicted to account for up to 50% of GHG emissions by 2050. Given we are already behind on overall targets to tackle global warming, the solution for aviation needs to be far reaching and holistic. 
      With demand growth, bridge solutions like SAF – especially with the cost and scalability challenges – can be helpful in tackling some carbon emissions, but they can’t remove carbon emissions fully, nor can they tackle non-CO2 emissions like NOx, SOx, particulates and soot (which combined have a larger climate change forcing effect than CO2 emissions alone). As with automotive (or even more so), the answer has to be electrification, but we can’t do it on battery-power. It is well accepted that batteries’ energy-to-weight ratio make them impractical for commercial flight. Hydrogen-combustion engines will be important as part of the mix and offer zero carbon, but will not tackle NOx and water vapor emissions.

    Hydrogen-electric propulsion is plainly the solution to addressing aviation’s climate impact., but also makes the most business and technological sense of all sustainable aviation solutions. Hydrogen has 100 times more energy density than the best electric batteries today, and it is the most abundant substance in the universe, as opposed to fossil fuels which are increasingly scarce. Hydrogen has a specific energy that is 2.8 times higher than traditional jet fuel. Fuel cells are also 2-3 times more efficient systems than combustion engines, and due to the lower temperature reactions, will face less wear and tear. All this means significantly lower operating costs for airline operators.

    What will the costs be?

    The cost of producing low-carbon hydrogen is already competitive with jet kerosene for some airline operators, and it is falling dramatically and will do so exponentially given government interventions already in effect or pending (renewable energy costs are a good parallel for this). The US has passed a hydrogen production credit, the UK has its Hydrogen Business Models support package and the EU hydrogen package and ReFuel EU initiatives offer clear mechanisms for bringing down the cost of green hydrogen production. 

    With reduced maintenance costs due the lower intensity system, operating costs could be lowered in the region of 20-40%.

    What’s ZeroAvia’s timeline?

    We’re initially targeting two powertrain classes – one to support 300-mile range in 9–19 seat aircraft by 2025, and one to support up to 700-mile range in 40–80 seat aircraft by 2027. Ultimately, however, we see no physical barriers and are targeting narrowbody jets and even beyond.

    When was the company founded?

    We were founded in late 2017.

    Who is behind ZeroAvia?

    Val Miftakhov, is ZeroAvia’s Founder and CEO and is a serial cleantech entrepreneur who knows how to scale technology for use by existing transportation industries. Val’s previous venture, eMotorWerks, developed smart vehicle-grid integration hardware and software, and was acquired in 2017. EMotorWerks’s JuiceBox Smart EV charging station was the best selling product in its category in the United States.

    Before eMotorWerks, Val held executive business strategy & operations positions at Google, McKinsey & Company, and Nielsen. He also launched and managed three startup companies, in all of which he held the CTO positions. Prior to his industry experience, Val was a high energy physics researcher at Stanford Linear Accelerator, a Department of Energy facility. 

    Val received his PhD in Physics from Princeton University and his MS in Physics from Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. He was a two-time winner of the Nationwide Russian Physics Competitions. In whatever spare time he gets, Val tries to get good use out of his airplane and helicopter pilot licenses.

    Over the last couple of years we have amassed an extremely talented and experienced executive team with the necessary skills to help grow and develop the business. We’re supported also by a phenomenal advisory board, which includes a number of individuals with 30 or more years experience in aviation. We are aiming to ensure a range of relevant experiences from different fields to provide cognitive diversity, but the common denominator is a passion for what we are trying to achieve in tackling aviation’s climate change impact.  It also helps that we have a healthy percentage of pilots on the team and a good number of committed aviation geeks as well. Full list of our executives and advisors on our website zeroavia.com

    Where is ZeroAvia based?

    ZeroAvia’s headquarters is Hollister, California (also our CEOs base), but we have our largest operation at Kemble in the UK where the majority of our engineers and executives are based, and also have grown another facility in Everett just north of Seattle.

    How many employees?

    We have nearly 300 employees at the current count.

    Is Hydrogen Safe?

    We believe it will be at least as safe as jet fuel once we are certified. There are lots of reasons to foresee safety improvements also:

    Compressed hydrogen tank integrity is superior to any liquid fuel tanks in aviation use today – crash-resistant, tested by high-caliber guns, etc.

    There is also less severe consequences of failure. H2 is the lightest molecule and dissipates very quickly if leaked – harder to maintain combustible mix in open air (unlike liquid fuel vapors). Even if the mix exists, H2 is harder to ignite than most fuels – >500C auto-ignition temperature, compared to <200C for Jet Fuel. Even if it ignites, the H2 flame emits much less radiative heat compared to Jet Fuel, resulting in much lower probability of secondary fires.

    Standards and protocols need to be developed and rigorously tested, as with all aviation innovations. But theoretically hydrogen-electric systems offer substantial safety improvements over current systems.