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Climate funding: Amazon makes more investments; Alaska Airlines and Bill Gates-led effort back aviation startup

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Amazon Spheres, May 2019. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

The investments keep rolling in for climate tech companies, and Pacific Northwest tech companies are writing many of the checks. Here is the latest funding news.

Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund investments

New investments: Amazon has made investments in two more companies working to reduce carbon emissions: California’s Hippo Harvest and New York’s Amogy. The money comes from the Seattle-based company’s $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund. Amazon did not say how much each startup would be receiving.

The recipients: Hippo Harvest is testing a greenhouse system that uses a closed loop and direct-to-root fertilizer and irrigation, cutting the use of water and carbon emissions. The agtech company is incorporating robotics and machine learning into its approach.

Amogy is developing technology for turning ammonia into power that could potentially one day be used for heavy-duty transportation including cargo shipping.

The why: Amazon has pledged to be net carbon neutral by 2040 and is encouraging others to sign its Climate Pledge and strive to do the same. But it’s going to be challenging to get there, and last year Amazon’s carbon emissions rose 19%. The company is investing in climate tech startups that are developing technologies that could help it reach its goals.

The how: The investment in Hippo Harvest can support the shrinking of grocery-related emissions coming from Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market stores.

As a major retailer through Amazon.com, the company needs to find greener ways to ship consumer goods. Cargo ships traditionally burn some of the dirtiest fossil fuels available, so there is great interest in cleaner innovations in the space.

The tech giant is also supporting multiple initiatives working toward decarbonized shipping, including Cargo Owners for Zero Emission Vessels, an effort backing zero-carbon marine fuels by 2040, and First Movers Coalition, which is tackling ocean shipping, trucking and aviation — which leads us to our next item…

Illustration: ZeroAvia aircraftAn artist’s conception shows a commercial airliner with a hydrogen-electric powertrain. (ZeroAvia via PR Newswire)

ZeroAvia gets NW support

New funding: Aviation company ZeroAvia this week announced $35 million in new funding. The California and United Kingdom-based startup has support from the Pacific Northwest. Investors include Alaska Airlines’ Alaska Air Group as a new backer, as well as Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund and Bill Gates-supported Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which have both participated in previous VC rounds.

Other investors are United Airlines, AP Ventures, Horizons Ventures, Summa Equity and Shell Ventures. The company has raised $115 million.

The technology: ZeroAvia is developing hydrogen-electric technology and expects to commercialize its planes by 2024. It’s developing 500-mile-range planes with 10-to-20 seat capacity that could be used for passengers, package delivery, agriculture and other transport.

Next steps: “As we prepare for ground and flight testing of our first commercial intent product in the coming weeks, this backing by our investors will enable us to accelerate delivery of our engine for larger aircraft,” said ZeroAvia CEO Val Miftakhov in a statement.

The new funding will help pay for development of 40-to-80 seat aircraft. ZeroAvia aims to have turboprops flying by 2026 and regional jets by 2028.

The take: Aviation is one of the most challenging sectors to decarbonize and a variety of startups and companies are working on planes powered by batteries, clean fuels or a combo of both.

In September, Everett, Wash.-based MagniX landed $74.3 million from NASA over the next five years to demonstrate electric propulsion technologies for aircraft.

In April, Microsoft, Boeing, Salesforce and others became founding members of the Sustainable Aviation Buyers Alliance, an effort to support the development of green fuels.

More funding news

— Vancouver, B.C.-based Damon Motors has raised a $30 million Series B round, which was led by House of Lithium.

The startup is building all-electric motorcycles that will be available beginning next year. The company launched in 2017 and has raised a total of $58.6 million, according to PitchBook.

The Battery500 Consortium will receive $75 million over the next five years to expand its work building better batteries for electric vehicles. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is leading the project, which includes the University of Washington and seven additional universities and national labs.

The funding is coming from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office.

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