United Airlines Ventures (UAV) and regional airline Mesa announced an investment in electric aircraft company Heart Aerospace, along with orders for 200 of the company’s zero operational emissions aircraft.

The investments were made as part of a $35 million series A funding round, and included energy innovation investor Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), with participation from Heart’s seed investors EQT Ventures and Lowercarbon capital.

Heart is developing the ES-19, a 19-seat passenger aircraft, designed to operate on the same types of batteries used in electric cars, and propelled by electric motors instead of jet engines.

The climate impact of air transport has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years as a significant contributor to global GHG emissions. According to the International Council on Clean Transportation, narrowbody and regional aircraft account for 48% of the aviation industry’s emissions.

Aiming to address this challenge, several companies are developing electric-based short-haul passenger aircraft. Earlier this year, United announced an agreement with electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL) developer Archer to assist in the development of battery-powered, short-haul aircraft, American Airlines invested in eVTOL startup Vertical Aerospace, and Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund announced an investment in BETA Technologies.

Carmichael Roberts from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, said:

“Aviation is such a critical piece of our global economy. At the same time, it’s a major source of carbon emissions and one of the most difficult sectors to decarbonize. We believe electric aircraft can be transformational in reducing the emissions of the industry, and enable low cost, quiet and clean regional travel on a broad scale. Heart’s visionary team is developing an aircraft around its proprietary electric motor technology that will allow airlines to operate at a fraction of the cost of today and has the potential to change the way we fly.”

Heart’s 19-seater aircraft will be larger than any of its electric competitors. Heart stated that first-generation aircraft will have a maximum range of up to 400 km, using today’s lithium-ion batteries, and the company anticipates delivering the first ES-19 for commercial use by 2026.

Anders Forslund CEO of Heart Aerospace, said:

“Electric aircraft are happening now—the technology is already here. We couldn’t be prouder to be partnering with United, Mesa and BEV on taking our ES-19 aircraft to market. I can’t imagine a stronger coalition of partners to advance our mission to electrify short-haul air travel.”

UAV was launched earlier this year by United Airlines and is aimed at investing in sustainable aviation- as well as in revolutionary aerospace developments and innovative technologies that are expected to create value for customers and United Airlines’ operations.

The new agreement aligns with United Airlines’ plans to fully reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 without relying on carbon offsets and it is the latest in a series of actions by the US carrier. Other initiatives and investments include the order of 15 net zero carbon aircraft from Boom Supersonic, and an investment in aeronautical company Vertical Aerospace for the development of a zero-carbon, electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

Michael Leskinen, United’s Vice President Corp Development & Investor Relations and UAV’s President, said:

“Breakthrough Energy Ventures is the leading voice of investors who are supporting clean-energy technology creation. We share their view that we have to build companies who have real potential to change how industries operate and, in our case, that means investing in companies like Heart Aerospace who are developing a viable electric airliner. We recognize that customers want even more ownership of their own carbon emissions footprint. We’re proud to partner with Mesa Air Group to bring electric aircraft to our customers earlier than any other US airliner.”

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