Aviation industry moves closer to adoption of zero-emission hydrogen fuel

Plug Power Inc, a leading provider of turnkey hydrogen solutions building the global green hydrogen economy, recently announced its affiliation expansion with Universal Hydrogen Co, a pioneer in hydrogen aviation. Together, the two companies will complete the hydrogen value chain for aviation.

Previously, both companies announced a partnership to develop a fuel cell-based hydrogen powertrain for regional aircraft. The recent minority investment by Plug Power will enable Universal Hydrogen to complete the construction of a subscale aircraft powertrain within the year. In addition to this strategic investment, the companies further agreed to a global offtake relationship that will see green hydrogen become cost-competitive with jet fuel by 2025.

Plug Power is an innovator and a leader in the green hydrogen economy, with over 40,000 fuel cell systems, 150 fueling stations deployed globally, and more than 40 tons of hydrogen daily. The company also has a comprehensive solution for generating green hydrogen, including its leading electrolyzer technology and liquefaction capabilities. Plug Power recently announced its plans to build five regional green hydrogen facilities in the United States. The combination of low-cost renewables, strong capital position, and in-house electrolyzer and liquefaction technology uniquely positions Plug Power to build out this green hydrogen network.

“When you think about renewables at 4 cents per kW-hr, it’s clear that green hydrogen can be produced at prices equivalent to or below fossil fuel-based hydrogen in the near term,” said Andy Marsh, Chief Executive Officer of Plug Power. “Universal Hydrogen’s approach is a pragmatic, near-term plan to bring green hydrogen to one of the hardest to decarbonize sectors—air travel.”

Following a successful ground demonstration, the teams will retrofit the hydrogen fuel cell powertrain into a 40-60 passenger regional aircraft—the first experimental flights slated for 2023 and entry into revenue service in 2025. Plug Power’s strategic investment is its latest commitment to the aerospace industry following its June 2019 acquisition of EnergyOr. This company specialized in advanced lightweight and compact PEM hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) systems for robotics, small-scale material handling, and aerospace applications.

Further, the company is building the hydrogen economy as the leading provider of comprehensive hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) turnkey solutions. Its innovative technology powers electric motors with hydrogen fuel cells amid an ongoing paradigm shift in the power, energy, and transportation industries to address climate change and energy security while providing efficiency gains and meeting sustainability goals. Plug Power created the first commercially viable market for hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) technology. As a result, the deployed over 40,000 fuel cell systems for e-mobility became the most ever anywhere else globally and has become the largest buyer of liquid hydrogen, having built and operated a hydrogen highway across North America.

Plug Power delivers a significant value proposition to end-customers, including meaningful environmental benefits, efficiency gains, fast fueling, and lower operational costs. Its vertically integrated GenKey solution ties together all critical elements to power, fuel, and service to customers such as Amazon, BMW, The Southern Company, Carrefour, and Walmart. The company is now leveraging its know-how, modular product architecture, and foundational customers to rapidly expand into other key markets, including zero-emission on-road vehicles, robotics, and data centers.

Meanwhile, Universal Hydrogen is dedicated to making hydrogen aviation a near-term reality. The company is building a hydrogen ecosystem for aviation through strategic partnerships and new technologies for hydrogen distribution and propulsion. Founded in 2020 by former Airbus CTO Paul Eremenko, together with eminent academic and entrepreneur John-Paul Clarke, aviation and energy attorney Jon Gordon, and Silicon Valley veteran Jason Chua, Universal Hydrogen takes a flexible, scalable, and capital-light approach to hydrogen logistics by transporting it in lightweight, aviation-certified modular capsules over the existing intermodal containerized freight network from green production sites to airports around the world. Universal Hydrogen is also developing a conversion kit to retrofit existing regional airplanes with a hydrogen-electric powertrain compatible with modular capsule technology to accelerate market adoption.

“This global supply agreement for green hydrogen will enable us to deliver modular fuel capsules to airline operators at a price that gives them equivalent unit economics to a conventional jet fuel-powered regional aircraft in 2025, with additional operating cost savings as the cost of hydrogen continues to decrease,” said Eremenko, CEO of Universal Hydrogen. “The economics just make sense, and our order book speaks for itself. We’re thrilled to have Plug Power as a strategic partner and now an investor as we make the carbon-free flight a near-term reality.”

The recent announcements advance Universal Hydrogen’s business model of using modular capsules to distribute hydrogen via the existing freight network directly to the aircraft, with no new infrastructure needed for transport or airport operations which can accelerate the adoption of the latest technology.  (Story by Plug Power Inc; image courtesy of Universal Hydrogen)

Watch this short video feature by NowThis Earth about Universal Hydrogen’s recent breakthroughs in creating zero-emission jet engines powered by hydrogen instead of jet fuel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBQBPBFXtlI