Alaska Airlines, ZeroAvia team up to develop largest zero-emission plane

May 2, 2023, 3:21 PM

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ZeroAvia's multi-megawatt modular electric motor system was demonstrated with a propeller spin aboard the ZeroAvia’s 15-ton HyperTruck ground-test rig. (Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines)

(Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines)

Alaska Airlines announced on May 1 that ZeroAvia is retrofitting a Bombardier Q400 plane with a hydrogen-electric propulsion system in an effort to expand the reach and applicability of zero emissions flight technology.

The 107-foot plane, designed for shorter distance flights, holds 76 seats with a max range of just slightly more than 1,100 nautical miles.

Once development is completed, the two companies will have created the world’s largest zero-emission aircraft.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, and Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers were a part of the public announcement alongside Alaska and ZeroAvia.

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“This is a great step forward in aviation innovation to help create a new future of flight – right here at home,” said Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci during the announcement.

“Alaska Airlines has defined a five-part journey to achieve net zero carbon emissions long-term, but we can’t get there alone. New technologies are required to make that future possible, and we’re thrilled to partner with industry leader ZeroAvia to make new zero-emission options a reality.”

Alaska Airlines’ regional carrier Horizon Air retired the Q400 fleet, but reserved one aircraft for research and development purposes for zero emissions technology in aviation.

ZeroAvia is currently developing an electric motor that the company claimed is one of three key building blocks for enabling hydrogen fuel cell engines for larger aircraft. ZeroAvia debuted its multi-megawatt modular electric motor system as a 1.8MW prototype configuration at the event.

“Demonstrating this size of aircraft in flight, powered entirely by novel propulsion, would have been unthinkable a few years ago,” said Val Miftakhov, founder and CEO of ZeroAvia, at the event.

“Launching this program puts us on track for a test flight next year, and accelerates our progress toward the future of zero-emission flight for Alaska Airlines and for the world at large.”

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Washington state has been at the forefront of eco-friendly policies, with The Washington Department of Ecology announcing last year that all new light-duty cars and trucks sold in Washington must meet zero-emission vehicle standards by 2035.

Additionally, The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) released an updated plan in March to transition to a 100% zero-emission fleet of approximately 1,600 buses by 2042 – three years sooner than the original timeline.

“We will continue to look for ways to further accelerate the transition to zero-emission buses, which provide customers with the same safe, reliable service at a much smaller carbon footprint,” said WMATA General Manager and CEO Randy Clarke in a prepared statement.

“Every trip taken instead of a car reduces greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to zero-emission buses will deliver additional environmental and health benefits while improving the quality of life for people across the region.”

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Alaska Airlines, ZeroAvia team up to develop largest zero-emission plane