Universal Hydrogen has raised over USD 20.5 million in the latest Series A round. The Los Angeles-based startup is working to develop a hydrogen storage solution. The startup is also developing conversion kits that can be used in commercial aircraft. The investments have been made by JetBlue Technologies, Airbus Venture, and others. CEO and founder Paul Eremenko said that hydrogen is the only option through which targets of the Paris Agreement can be reached. “This is the only way that can help the aviation industry to limit global warming. We are focusing on end-to-end hydrogen fuel distribution systems for aviation by 2025,” Eremenko said.
The latest round was led by Playground Global. The investor syndicate included Global Founders Capital, Coatue, Fortescue Future Industries, Toyota AI Ventures, Plug Power, Sojitz Corporation, Airbus Ventures, JetBlue Technology Ventures and Future Shape. The first product of Universal Hydrogen will be lightweight modular capsules. This will be used by the company to transport ‘green hydrogen’ to hydrogen fuel cells equipped aircraft. Green hydrogen is produced using renewable power. Once developed, these capsules will be available in different sizes for aircraft. From long-distance planes to VTOL air taxis, the startup is planning to supply hydrogen to all of them.
Eremenko said that they are trying to design capsules in a way that they can be interchanged within each class of aircraft simply like consumer batteries. In order to kick start the business, the startup is developing one such plane itself. The plane will be a 40 to 60 seat turboprop with a flight range of around 700 miles. This is being done in collaboration with seed investor Plug Power and magniX. While MagniX will develop motors for electric aircraft, Plug Power will supply fuel cells and hydrogen. Eremenko believes that it will be able to develop the plane by 2025. The ultimate task of the startup is to develop kits that can be retrofitted by regional airlines in their own aircraft. However, Universal Hydrogen is not the sole player in this field. UK-based ZeroAvia is also developing its own regional fuel cell aircraft. Eremenko said that it is expecting new entrants in the coming days.