Pioneering startup Universal Hydrogen shuts down after running out of funds  

Hydrogen aerospace startup Universal Hydrogen has announced that it is closing down after running out of funds. 

Founded by former Airbus CTO Paul Eremenko, Universal Hydrogen was one of the most prominent firms working on the development of hydrogen propulsion for aircraft and raised US$100 million in venture capital funding. 

Universal Hydrogen was working on a system to retrofit existing turboprop fleets with hydrogen fuel cells. The uniqueness of the startup’s proposition was in its approach to hydrogen refueling and logistics.  

Its technology, which has often been compared to “Nespresso capsules”, addressed the lack of on the ground hydrogen supply infrastructure at most airports. This was done by fueling the aircraft with standardized pods pre-filled with hydrogen that could be swapped between flights when the aircraft was on the ground. 

Because of their standard, containerized design, the pods could be transported by land from a source of green hydrogen to whichever airport they were needed at. Each cycle, a truck would deliver a full pod and take back an empty one for refill. 

In March 2023, Universal Hydrogen completed its first test flight, which involved the largest hydrogen-powered aircraft to date, a modified De Havilland Canada Dash 8-300.  

Besides its testing facility in Moses Lake, Washington, where its flight test campaign was being conducted, Universal Hydrogen had also opened a research center in Toulouse, France, where it cooperated with ATR to retrofit a larger ATR-72 turboprop with its fuel cell system. 

The winding down of Universal Hydrogen represents an important setback for a nascent hydrogen ecosystem, which, despite the support of industry giants like Airbus, still faces considerable challenges in its quest to develop a viable zero alternative to current technologies. 

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