Are we on the brink of a green hydrogen revolution? Some startups want to lead the way.

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the Universe. A gas with lots of qualities, it is already used in many applications. That’s why the European Commission stressed its importance in April 2020, on “A hydrogen strategy for a climate-neutral Europe”, as “a fuel or an energy carrier and storage with possible applications across industry, transport, power and buildings sectors.” However, today most hydrogen is produced through polluting processes generating huge amounts of C02 that account for more than 2% of the carbon global footprint.

Environmentally-friendly methods of producing hydrogen have been gaining attention in Europe and around the world in recent years – the so-called “Green Hydrogen”-. Green hydrogen takes advantage of the valuable qualities of this gas while suppressing the damage of its traditionally-polluting production.

Green hydrogen is indeed one of the most trusted bets of the governments, including the European Commission, for achieving its EU strategy for the energy transition, presented on 8 July 2020, within the European Green Deal. The EU Hydrogen Strategy “will explore how producing and using renewable hydrogen can help decarbonise the EU economy in a cost-effective way.” In line with the European Green Deal goal of Europe being climate-neutral by 2050, the EU Hydrogen Strategy sets this goal: “from 2025 to 2030, hydrogen needs to become an intrinsic part of our integrated energy system, with at least 40GW of renewable hydrogen electrolysers and the production of up to 10 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen in the EU”. But, will Europe really accomplish such a bold objective? If so, it would not only be done thanks to public funding.

Hydrogen investment on the rise

Therefore, and not surprisingly, the technology development needed for the production, storage and use of Green Hydrogen has become the main objective of many start-ups all over the world. In parallel, funding programs like EU’s Horizon Europe and VC funds and other funding entities have decided to support decisively this goal of common welfare. 

The attention gained by hydrogen technologies over the past few years is a worldwide phenomenon. According to the analysis  made by Madhumitha Jaganmohan on 4 June 2021 in Statista, “in 2020, the total investment in passenger fuel cell vehicles was nearly 592 million U.S. dollars.”. And “passenger fuel cell vehicles” is just one of the 5 sectors considered in the study. Fuel cell buses, Refuelling stations, Electrolysis and Commercial fuel cell vehicles complete the list of “Investments in hydrogen worldwide in 2020, by type”, with investments of 400, 272, 189 and 47 million U.S. dollars each. All these investments will not however be “green” if the hydrogen is produced through the old polluting processes.

Technology startups will play a decisive role

From our point of view, technology startups will play a decisive role and we have found some of the most promising startups competing in the Green Hydrogen race:

Syzygy Plasmonics develops a new type of photocatalytic chemical reactor at the heart of which it is a stable and active photocatalyst. This reactor will reduce the cost and emissions of the major commodity chemicals. The company is based in the US and has raised 25,68M€ so far. 

ZeroAvia is based in the US, has raised 66,92M€ so far and develops hydrogen-electric powertrains, “the only viable, scalable solution for zero-emission aviation”, in the company’s own words.

Enapter is one of the most promising European hydrogen-focused companies. Based in Germany, the startup has raised 49,14M€ until today and develops the AEM Electrolyzer, a modular plug & play solution that transforms renewable electricity and water into Green hydrogen. Thanks to its modular design, the production of Green hydrogen can be done at any scale, anywhere and anytime.  

Hypoint is based in the US and has raised 8,74 M€ so far to develop a hydrogen fuel cell system that makes zero emission air transport possible.

Hymeth develops technologies to produce and store sustainable hydrogen and oxygen gas more efficiently. They have created a more efficient alternative to PEM electrolyzers, “a low temperature high pressure electrolyzer”: the Hyaeon. The company is also working on Hynace, a technology that can extract C02 from nature and whose possible applications are synthetic methane gas, methanol, diesel, and aircraft fuel production. The company is based in Denmark and has raised 0,35 M€ so far.

HySiLabs has developed a unique liquid carrier, the HydroSil, for charging and releasing hydrogen. This innovative solution tackles hydrogen transportation hurdles. The company is based in France, and has raised 2,1M€.

H2-Greenforce is based in the US, has raised €10,71M and it is, in the company’s own words, “the world’s first standalone green energy station”. They produce and store energy in the form of hydrogen taking advantage of solar, wind and hydro-power renewable sources.

H2Pro is based in Israel and has raised €28,52M. This company develops a disruptive technology concerning green hydrogen production, known as E-TAC (Electrochemical, Thermally Activated Chemical). This technology splits water into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity, as electrolysis does, but solves electrolyzers’ drawbacks: E-TAC technology avoids the mix of hydrogen and oxygen gases and its consequent risk, the power loss and efficiency of the process and the high costs of the electrolyzers’ membrane and its maintenance.

P2X Solutions is based in Finland and has raised €2M so far. They want to contribute to a cleaner planet and a “emission-free Finnish welfare society”. They propose the construction of a 20 MW electrolyzer plant, from which they will produce green hydrogen, obtained by electrolysis in which renewable electricity will be used. They will also produce synthetic biofuels that they’ll obtain from further refined green hydrogen and C02 caught from a Finnish industrial plant. 

Article by Elsa Granados

Image by Michelle Raponi from Pixabay

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