Universal Hydrogen has raised an additional $62 million to support its plans to convert regional airliners to hydrogen propulsion, bring its total fundraising to date to $85 million. The company’s latest group of backers include aircraft engine maker GE Aviation, as well as venture capital groups such as Mitsubishi HC Capital, Tencent, Stratos, Waltzing Matilda Aviation, Fourth Realm, Hawktail, Time Ventures, Jeff Wilke, Spencer Rascoff’s 75, and Sunny Ventures.
In an October 14 announcement, Universal Hydrogen said the new capital will allow it to press ahead with planned flight testing of its hydrogen fuel cell powertrain on a 40-plus seat ATR 42 regional airliner at Moses Lake in Washington state. The green hydrogen for the flight will be supplied using the company’s modular fuel capsules that are installed in a compartment in the rear of the fuselage.
According to the company, its proprietary technology allows the hydrogen fuel to be delivered directly from production facilities to the aircraft using existing freight services and airport cargo handling equipment. It also claims that the capsules are significantly lighter than other current hydrogen storage hardware.
Universal Hydrogen is aiming to get retrofitted ATR 72 and De Havilland Canada Dash 8 regional airliners certified for commercial service with its propulsion system in 2025. Airlines including Icelandair, Air Nostrum, and Ravn Alaska and ASL Aviation have signed letters of intent to take the converted aircraft.
However, company founder Paul Eremenko is setting his sights beyond regional airliners. “If we want to decarbonize the industry on the timeframe of the Paris Agreement, the world’s narrowbody airliner fleet has to become hydrogen-powered starting in the 2030s.”
On October 12, French President Emmanuel Macron called on France’s aerospace industry to lead the development of what he termed a “low-carbon aircraft” by 2030, which is five years ahead of when Airbus expects to bring a hydrogen-powered narrowbody airliner to market. In a presentation called “France 2030” in which he spelled out 10 objectives for “reindustrializing” the country, Macron said that €4 billion in government funding would be made available to support advances in aviation technology as well as decarbonization of road vehicles.
Universal Hydrogen recently announced plans to establish an engineering center at Toulouse in France.