Universal Hydrogen sets foot in Europe with new R&D Centre in Toulouse

Hydrogen is the only viable and scalable solution for decarbonizing aviation and it is the most weight-efficient energy carrier and aerospace is the most weight-sensitive vertical. But the biggest impediment to hydrogen aviation has been lack of infrastructure.

By Using their modular capsule technology, hydrogen is transported and distributed via the existing global freight network.

To spur adoption Universal Hydrogen has developed a conversion kit to retrofit existing regional airplanes with a hydrogen-electric powertrain improving both performance and cost.

The second engineering and design center will be in the historic Hangar B16 at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport.
Airbus veteran Pierre Farjounel is appointed as General Manager of its European operations. Farjounel most recently served as the Head of Digital Continuity & Information Systems for Airbus’ next generation of aircraft. The center will initially focus on the development of a liquid hydrogen capsule for Universal Hydrogen’s modular storage and logistics system. As it grows through the course of 2022, the engineering center will also support the development of conversion kits for retrofitting regional aircraft with a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain, as well as development of modular hydrogen storage technology for single aisle, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), and other applications.

“Decarbonizing aviation in a timeframe to meet Paris Agreement targets, the importance of which has been further underscored by the recent and devastating IPCC report, demands a global effort, including the best and brightest aviation has to offer,” said Farjounel. “We have come to Toulouse because its resources — its engineering talent, suppliers, and manufacturing base, as well as its spirit of innovation — are unparalleled.”

“We warmly welcome the decision of Universal Hydrogen to set up an engineering and design center in Toulouse since it will contribute to the ongoing development of zero-carbon aviation and hydrogen energy production,” said Carole Delga, President of the Occitanie Region. “The deployment of hydrogen is a priority for the Occitanie Region, which recently launched a green hydrogen development plan for the period 2019-2030 with a budget of €150M. Universal Hydrogen will benefit from a unique ecosystem in the Occitanie Region to further develop its expertise and become a key global player in the effort to decarbonise aviation.”

“Universal Hydrogen’s decision to establish an engineering and design center at the airport is great news for Toulouse leadership,” said Philippe Crébassa, Chairman of the Board of Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (ATB). “It strengthens ATB’s position at the forefront of innovation for carbon-free aviation. With the HyPort station, hydrogen will be real at Toulouse airport by the end of this year and we look forward to partnering with Universal Hydrogen to leverage exciting synergies.”

Universal Hydrogen has deep connections to the Toulouse region. The company’s co-founder and CEO, Paul Eremenko, formerly served as Airbus’ Chief Technology Officer, leading a variety of electrification and decarbonization initiatives. Mark Cousin, Universal Hydrogen CTO, served as Technical Director for the Airbus Beluga XL program and subsequently as Senior Vice President for Flight Demonstrators. Tom Enders, former Airbus CEO, and John Leahy, former Airbus Chief Commercial Officer both serve on Universal Hydrogen’s Strategic Advisory Board.

In addition to Toulouse, Universal Hydrogen continues to work with other regions in France, as well as Germany and the Netherlands, to further accelerate its engineering and manufacturing capabilities. In May 2021, the company was one of 11 winners of the Paris Region’s “H2 Hub Airport” competition, sponsored by Airbus, ADP Group, and Air France KLM, and is working to develop a full-scale hydrogen aviation demonstration, as well as a regional service center in the Paris Region by the end of next year.

The company takes a unique approach by focusing on the entire value chain necessary to enable hydrogen-powered aviation, including providing hydrogen fuel services to airline customers, as well as introducing the first commercially-relevant hydrogen aircraft into passenger service in 2025 through the retrofit conversions of Dash-8 and ATR72 regional aircraft. Icelandair, Ravn Alaska, and Spain’s Air Nostrum have signed letters of intent with Universal Hydrogen to convert portions of their existing and future fleets to hydrogen power and to enter into long-term hydrogen fuel supply contracts using Universal Hydrogen’s modular fuel distribution network.

The company completed its Series A investment round earlier in the year, led by prominent Silicon Valley venture fund, Playground Global, with an investor syndicate comprised of Airbus Ventures, Global Founders Capital, Plug Power, Fortescue Future Industries, Coatue, JetBlue Technology Ventures, Toyota Ventures, and Sojitz Corporation.