12 SEP 2023
These 4 startups are paving the way to a green hydrogen future
Green hydrogen has the potential to create more sustainable energy systems but there are considerable barriers to success. These pioneering startups are tackling those challenges to make the green hydrogen economy a reality.
Greening our energy systems is an essential step towards creating a more sustainable future. We need at least a third of our energy to come from renewable sources by 2030 if we’re going to limit global warming to 1.5°C, but, according to the IEA’s latest Energy Progress Report, less than 20% of our energy came from renewables in 2020. This sluggish progress gives a fresh impetus to the development of renewables, from scaling up existing successes in solar and wind to realizing the benefits of newer technologies like green hydrogen.
Green hydrogen: the benefits and the challenges
Green hydrogen refers to hydrogen gas that’s produced through electrolysis – a process in which electricity generated by renewable sources is used to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The gas can then be compressed into a liquid or stored in high-pressure tanks for later use or transported to other locations.
It's the combination of renewable electricity and electrolysis that makes green hydrogen so exciting because, when it’s produced in this way, it’s almost entirely carbon-free. When it’s burned to generate electricity, the only byproduct is water. The ease with which it can be stored makes it ideal for powering fuel cells in everything from smart homes to electric vehicles. And it has the potential to help decarbonize sectors that are challenging to electrify directly, like heavy industries, shipping and aviation.
But green hydrogen isn't as widely developed as wind or solar technologies and its production is prohibitively expensive because of the high cost of electrolyzers. Furthermore, most of the hydrogen being produced today uses electricity generated by the burning of fossil fuels, so much of the infrastructure is unable to make use of renewable energy sources.
For green hydrogen to really take off, costs need to come down and new infrastructure that seamlessly connects to existing renewable power generation needs to be developed. That’s where these four young companies come in – each making green hydrogen more affordable, more efficient, and easier to roll out across existing infrastructure and industries.
HyPoint: hydrogen fuel cells for aviation
Headquartered in the United States, HyPoint is pushing boundaries in hydrogen fuel cell systems with applications in aviation. Aircraft need lightweight yet highly efficient fuels to be economically viable, and HyPoint’s technology is filling these requirements.
Enapter: electrolyzers of the future
Italian startup Enapter has its sights set on improving electrolysis technology with a modular, scalable hydrogen generator based on what it calls a “plug and play” model. The company claims that these compact electrolyzers can be utilized by many industries to produce hydrogen on-site for immediate use or to be stored for later. This on-demand generation is a big step towards decentralized hydrogen production.
PowerUp ET: mobile maritime fuel cells
PowerUp Energy Technologies, another US company, is making green hydrogen more accessible to the maritime industry. They’ve combined hydrogen fuel cells with lithium batteries into compact generators capable of providing a clean and reliable source of backup electricity for marine vehicles.
HyTech Power: turning dirty engines green
HyTech Power is aiming to integrate green hydrogen with traditional combustion engines. It retrofits old diesel engines with hydrogen-based technology that makes them more efficient. This helps reduce the emissions caused by diesel engines and could provide an affordable middle ground between traditional diesel and fully electric vehicles.
A fuel of the future
Nations and businesses need to get behind green hydrogen as part of their plans to achieve global net zero targets, and many are already doing so. The EU’s hydrogen strategy sets out targets to make green hydrogen more affordable in Europe, while the UAE recently unveiled a national hydrogen strategy with bold aspirations to generate 15 million tonnes of green hydrogen by 2050.
These four pioneering startups are showcasing green hydrogen’s possibilities. Rapid improvements in electrolysis technologies, efficiency and scalability are moving us closer to a future in which green hydrogen plays a major contributing role to our energy systems.