The Hydrogen Americas Summit hosted a virtual event from June 8 to June 11, 2021, that featured Val Miftakhov, the CEO of ZeroAvia, and several other leaders in the hydrogen energy sector as speakers. Over the course of four days, speakers at different points of the value chain celebrated achievements in hydrogen energy, developed new business relationships, and exchanged insights to help each other’s alternative energy products succeed.
The summit focused on hydrogen initiatives in North America for the first two days and hydrogen initiatives in Latin America for the last two days. Miftakhov joined 13 other speakers over the course of the four-day summit, each considered a worldwide expert in hydrogen electricity. He spoke on the first day of the summit on the topic of “Flying High: Enabling Zero Emission Air Travel at Scale.”
Val Miftakhov’s Credentials for Speaking at the Summit
Val Miftakhov received an invitation to speak at the Hydrogen Americas Summit because he is the CEO and founder of a developing hydrogen-electric jet fuel company. The hydrogen-electric fuel that ZeroAvia produces is an alternative to the traditional fossil fuels that power airplanes. ZeroAvia is the first company in the world to build an aviation powertrain capable of producing zero-net carbon emissions.
Before launching ZeroAvia in 2017, Miftakhov created eMotorWerks and served as its CEO until he sold the electric car battery charger company to pursue his interest in alternative fuel sources. Val Miftakhov has a long history in business and product creation. Two of his past employers are McKinsey & Company and Google. Another was Stanford Linear Accelerator, where he worked as a nuclear researcher.
Val Miftakhov holds doctorate and master’s degrees in physics. He arrived in the United States from Moscow in the late 1990s to attend Princeton University, where he earned his doctorate. While still living in Moscow, Miftakhov earned his master’s from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. He competed in physics contests several times in Russia and won two of them.
Based in the United Kingdom near London and the United States in Hollister, California, ZeroAvia is the first company of its kind dedicated to creating a zero-emission aviation powertrain. CEO Val Miftakhov worked with other serial entrepreneurs in the EV industry to launch and operate ZeroAvia.
ZeroAvia’s first goal was to fly a 10- to 20-seat aircraft up to 500 nautical miles with hydrogen-electric fuel completely replacing traditional fossil fuel. The company has already demonstrated how switching to this mode of travel can save airlines up to 50 percent on total operating costs. Planes that use a hydrogen-electric powertrain typically have up to 75 percent lower maintenance and fuel costs. ZeroAvia has flown several short-haul test flights that back up these claims.
ZeroAvia plans to continue test flights of 10- to 20-seat hydrogen-powered aircraft until 2024. That is the same year that Miftakhov’s company plans to offer its first commercial flight. He and his colleagues have created an aggressive timeline, with each milestone building off of the success of the previous one. The projected powertrain timeline of ZeroAvia looks like this:
- By 2026, the company will offer a short-haul commercial flight on an aircraft containing between 50 and 80 passenger seats.
- By 2030, ZeroAvia will install its hydrogen powertrain in aircraft with 100 to 200 passenger seats, and the flight will travel up to 2,000 nautical miles.
- By 2035, the number of passenger seats will increase to at least 200, and the aircraft will fly up to 3,000 nautical miles.
- By 2040, ZeroAvia will operate an aircraft powered by hydrogen-electric energy that contains more than 200 passenger seats and will fly up to 5,000 nautical miles.
Val Miftakhov has established this aggressive timeline on behalf of ZeroAvia because he understands the aviation industry’s huge contribution to carbon emissions. The world’s airlines and private pilots currently contribute 12 percent of all carbon emissions in the transportation industry. Without companies like ZeroAvia stepping up to address the problem, it could grow twice as large by 2050.
Regulators in countries worldwide are starting to respond to aviation emissions and have set ambitious timelines of their own to curtail the problem. For example, the European Union is pushing for a four-fold reduction in carbon emissions and a 10-fold reduction in NOx emissions by 2050. ZeroAvia has undertaken its hydrogen powertrain project to start proposing alternative fuel solutions as quickly as possible.
Miftakhov feels confident in the promising future of hydrogen-electric fuel and predicts that it will command a $100 billion marketplace within the next decade. He also foresees the creation of more than 100,000 new aircraft units as a result of this market disruption.
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