Fossil-free flights to New York by 2033!
By Simon Hacker | 12th May 2023
In the wake of a new deal signed with Alaska Airlines, the founder of Gloucestershire-based green flight pioneers ZeroAvia has been sharing his vision of future flight technology and mobility with the world's business community.
Speaking on Bloomberg Radio at the thinktank Milken Institute's Beverley Hills Global Conference, Val Miftakhov revealed details of the recent deal with Alaska Airlines and explained more on the crucial role of hydrogen as the front-runner for aviation's sustainable future.
Mr Miftakhov said: "ZeroAvia started a little more than five years ago and we have built the technology in-house and we are flying multiple prototypes already, the largest one flying in the UK with 20-seaters and we have just announced with Alaska Airlines, one of our launch partners, a large aircraft development of 76-seat aircraft running on our powertrain later this year.
"All the critical technology we have in house, which is very important."
Fuel cells in the hydrogen-electric powertain on board the aircraft convert the gas to electricity, but in reference to his previous work in developing technology for electric cars, Mr Miftakhov said the process had to be built "from scratch".
"You can't really use automotive technology," he added. His interest in air flight, he explained, subsequently grew out of his enthusiasm for the mode of travel as a pilot.
"I'm a pilot myself, flying helicopters and planes, so I feel personally connected to industry the issues of what we can do: people said maybe we should stop flying and sit at home and I didn't really like that."
In automotive development, Mr Miftakhov said he believes that with the majority of any electric car's time being parked up and unused, there is an opportunity to use storage capacity of the car's idle batteries.
"Cars typically sit for 95 of the time and people say there is a problem with the sun shining or not, but if they are kept plugged in you can use that battery capacity to store renewable power – that's what I think will happen in the automotive space."
The biggest problem in automotive development, however, lies in the recycling of materials. EV buyers are unlikely to exhaust the ability of an electric car to be recharged 1000 times for 300,000 miles, he said, but in an aircraft such distances can be covered in a month.
"So for aircraft using battery power you would replace, replace, replace, and even before that [batteries] weigh too much so it doesn' work.
"The main technlogy problem of hydrogen is that it takes more volume to store so we are going after existing aircraft to retrofit and we are able to achieve about half the range. For Alaska Airlines, 30 existing 76-seat aircraft could fly for 1,500 on six hours on fossil fuel but nobody flies that... we come in and say we can fly them with hydrogen for 700 miles and they say that's fine becase they fly 300-400 miles max."
As a prediction, he added: "Within ten years, we'll be able to get you to New York."
ZeroAvia's research and development has the backing from Bill Gates' Breakthrough Energy investment project. You can read more about ZeroAvia's visit to Alaska in our report here .
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