Private Planes Could Soon Go Carbon-Free

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(Bloomberg) -- The climate-conscious super-rich may soon be able to take a private plane that doesn’t burn fossil fuels.

Some small aircraft could be flying with zero emissions within a decade, according to Val Miftakhov, founder and chief executive officer of start-up ZeroAvia, which is developing a hydrogen-fueled electric engine for small planes. The company is one of a number of ventures seeking to decarbonize air travel, a source of about 2% of man-made carbon-dioxide emissions.

While the electrification of cars is set to grow rapidly in the coming years, zero-carbon flight is trickier. Batteries are heavy, and airplanes need uses much more power than automobiles.

That’s why ZeroAvia plans to use hydrogen produced from renewable energy to get aircraft off the ground. The cost of to produce the fuel is set to plunge in coming years, potentially making hydrogen-powered flights cheaper than ones reliant on fossil fuels.

“With those prices, we are coming way below jet fuel prices,” Miftakhov said in an interview before the BloombergNEF summit in London. “What that allows us to do is to make the economics of these smaller planes competitive.”

Private Planes Could Soon Go Carbon-Free

ZeroAvia is in the process of raising $10 million to develop its technology for a 19-passenger plane that could go 500 nautical miles. Rather than having to design a whole airplane, the company plans to sell its technology to existing aviation companies as early as 2022.

It first plans to target commuter and cargo aircraft, but could later be adopted for more luxury private planes by 2030, according to Miftakhov.

Other companies are focusing on the development of electric air taxis. With backers such as Daimler AG and Google co-founder Larry Page, these businesses aim to take a few passengers on relatively short flights.

Private Planes Could Soon Go Carbon-Free

Short-haul flights on demand could lead the way for carbon-free air travel, said Michael Cervenka, chief operating officer of Vertical Aerospace, which is developing an air taxi that could transport about three people.

“Aviation is really going to disrupt,” Cervenka said at the BNEF summit. “We’re a long way off having large, long-range aircraft being able to do this. The disruption to me starts at the smaller end.”

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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