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Universal Hydrogen accelerates bid for carbon-free airplane

Fri 23rd April, 2021 12:19am
By Tim Hepher
    PARIS, April 22 (Reuters) - Universal Hydrogen, a U.S.-based
firm planning to provide hydrogen propulsion for regional
aircraft, said on Thursday it would accelerate development after
raising $20.5 million in funds amid a debate over carbon-free
    The second-stage funding was led by Silicon Valley incubator
Playground Global with investors including venture capital arms
of Airbus  AIR.PA , Toyota  7203.T  and JetBlue  JBLU.O .
    Hydrogen has become a hot topic as aviation faces pressure
to slash carbon emissions.
    Europe's Airbus has said it is working on a zero-emission
airplane for 2035, expected to use hydrogen combustion.
    But Universal Hydrogen founder Paul Eremenko has held out
the prospect of quicker progress towards "decarbonised" air
travel by using electricity from hydrogen fuel cells onboard
small regional planes, carrying 40-60 people.
    It aims to adapt planes to carry hydrogen in capsules that
could be retrofitted.
    Universal Hydrogen said on Thursday it aimed to make 
commercial flights in 2025. Critics say a challenge will be
getting the planes certified in such short time.
    The initiative comes as engine-makers study a less radical
alternative: hybrid engines combining electricity with
traditional gas turbines for best-selling 150-seaters.
    They say this is more realistic in the next decade,
especially for anything larger than a regional jet or turboprop.
    In a recent interview, Eremenko said pressure to curb
emissions favoured hydrogen.
    "There is a willingness and a need to start talking about
such measures," the former Airbus technology chief told Reuters.
    "You can no longer say in 2030-ish I will do a hybrid and
then in 2050 do something more drastic. If we wait that long it
might be too late. We have got to move in a more aggressive
    A lack of infrastructure and a lack of urgency have hampered
the switch, Eremenko said.
    "I think now the urgency is there. That is the tectonic
shift in the industry."

 (Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Karishma Singh)
 ((; +33 1 49 49 54 52; Reuters
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