Why does this matter?
- According to BloombergNEF, the aviation industry added more than 1B metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2019 (> 2% of worldwide emissions).
- By switching to hydrogen-powered vehicles, water vapor will be produced, instead of carbon dioxide.
- Kevin Noertker, the CEO of Ampaire, says that, “We can directly reduce the emissions of those planes by up to 50 percent in our hybrids, and an even greater reduction when we go fully electric.”
- Half of all global flights are shorter than 500 miles – that’s the sweet spot for electric aircraft. Electric aircraft means fewer mechanical pieces and less maintenance, in addition to cheaper fuel.
- Fuel is one of the biggest expenses for airlines, so electrification of aviation presents the opportunity to decrease fuel costs, which would also decrease costs for customers.
- Airbus SE, one of the bigger players in the aviation industry, is planning on developing hydrogen powered planes within the next 5 years.
- Val Miftakhov, the CEO of ZeroAvia, says that ZeroAvia has letters of intent from about 15 airlines. The company’s technology is projected to be commercially available in 2023.
- Governments are also playing in the game, pushing for decarbonization, specifically in Nordic countries.
- ZeroAvia is using their funds for the ongoing development of its ZA-600 hydrogen fuel cell powertrain, which can power a 10- to 20-passenger plane for a flight of 575 miles.
- Aircraft programs usually take at least five or six years to develop once the technology is proven, meaning that the entire ecosystem will need to transition (hydrogen producers, manufacturers, and airports).
Electrification of aviation will gradually gain market share, primarily in the form of hybrids. As this shift occurs, other pieces of the ecosystem will play a big part – from power density of batteries to hydrogen production and infrastructure. For long term success, collaboration is needed, especially between innovators, airports, and utilities.
About The Author
Daniel currently works at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. His original assignment was to maintain and update facility safety documentation for all facilities on-site, and perform risk analysis. Over time, his role has expanded to leading continuous improvement efforts through product management.
Concurrently, Daniel volunteers with Techstars, helping organize startup weekends, and with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, organizing events on the local and national levels of the organization. He also volunteers with One World, and previously with Powerhouse Ventures, to source and screen startups for potential investment.
Daniel holds a BS in Chemical Engineering from UC Davis, and recently completed coursework in energy innovation from Stanford. His passion is at the intersection of sustainability, innovation, and business.