Featured image: Michael Rodeback/Airways

American to Buy 100 Hydrogen-Powered Engines

DALLAS — American Airlines (AA) has entered into a conditional purchase agreement with clean aviation innovator ZeroAvia for 100 hydrogen-electric engines intended to power regional jet aircraft with "zero inflight emissions save for water vapor."

The airline has also increased its investment in ZeroAvia, which it began two years ago, now participating in ZeroAvia’s Series C financing round.

ZeroAvia is creating engines for commercial airplanes that run on "fuel cells" powered by hydrogen electricity. These fuel cells can then be "used to power electric motors to turn the aircraft’s propellers." The only emission while in-flight "is low-temperature water vapor."

The fuel cell developer is  working on an engine for aircraft like the Bombardier CRJ700, which AA flies on some regional routes, and is currently conducting flight testing on a 20-seater prototype.

Image: ZeroAvia

Comments from American, ZeroAvia CEOs

“Advancing the transition of commercial aviation to a low-carbon future requires investments in promising technologies, including alternate forms of propulsion,” said American’s CEO Robert Isom. “This announcement will help accelerate the development of technologies needed to power our industry and uphold our commitment to make American a sustainable airline so we can continue to deliver for customers for decades to come.”

“In signing this purchase agreement and furthering its investment, American is supporting our mission of innovation for clean aircraft propulsion and it is a good signal that ZeroAvia is delivering on our technology roadmap,” said ZeroAvia Founder and CEO Val Miftakhov. “The solutions that can serve the largest airlines are within reach, and the clean future of flight is coming.”

The news comes on the heels of ZeroAvia competitor Universal Hydrogen announcing it was going bust after burning US$100 million in investor cash in the span of four years and not being able to secure enough equity of debt financing to stay afloat.

The demise of the company came despite having "successfully run a megawatt-class fuel cell powertrain" using its proprietary liquid hydrogen module to supply the fuel just three months ago.

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