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Shell backs hydrogen plane start-up

Anglo-Dutch oil major Royal Dutch Shell has lent its backing to California-based start-up ZeroAvia, which aims to develop commercial aircrafts that are emissions-free.

ZeroAvia announced it had been awarded $21.4 million in a funding round led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which was founded by Bill Gates as a vehicle for speeding up the development of sustainable technologies. Other backers include oil and lubricant company Shell and internet giant Amazon.

The start-up has already built a hydrogen-powered six-seater propeller plane and completed 10 test flights in Britain. It aims to progress to developing a plane capable of transporting 10 to 20 passengers as far as 500 miles by 2023, before moving on to introducing commercial jets capable of flying 3,000 miles with 200 passengers by the end of the decade. The company is also collaborating with British Airways to investigate ways of transitioning to planes powered by hydrogen.

ZeroAvia’s CEO and founder, Val Miftakhov, said:

“Our most recent milestone achievements are closing the gap for the airline industry to begin its transition away from fossil fuels. In fact, over ten forward-looking airlines are now gearing up to implement our powertrains when they are ready in 2023.”

Miftakhov added that financial markets and the aviation industry were coming to recognise hydrogen as the only viable means to produce emission-free commercial flights on a large scale, pointing at the feasibility of using hydrogen to power a plane with 100 seats. He also thanked the start-up’s investors for uniting with it and seeking to take aviation into “a new golden age”.

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