The UK’s potential to be a global leader in the development of hydrogen-powered aviation uses has been recognised following a multimillion investment by a Silicon Valley-based US business into Discovery Park at Sandwich.
HyPoint is investing £11m in its team, as well as a new research, development and production centre at Discovery Park. It is part of its commitment to advancing zero carbon-emission aviation by developing its turbo air-cooled hydrogen fuel cell systems for aviation and urban air mobility, in the UK.
The NASA award-winning hydrogen fuel cell pioneer is accelerating hydrogen innovation in the UK and, from its new facilities, HyPoint will apply its technology for a variety of aviation and urban air mobility uses, including for logistic drones, air taxis, electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOLs), and fixed-wing airplanes.
Over the next two years, the company plans to increase its team to more than 50 employees at the science and innovation park.
The environmental potential offered by HyPoint was recognised by 10 Downing Street at the Green Investment Summit in October 2021. By the end of 2025, the company expects to employ more than 100 workers and have 100 megawatts of onsite plant capacity.
Transport Minister Trudy Harrison, who serves as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, said: “HyPoint is the kind of visionary tech company that we welcome. This Government is developing an ambitious Jet Zero Strategy and we recognise the role that hydrogen could play in decarbonising the industry. This move is a strong vote of confidence in the UK and a major boost for green jobs in the local area.”
Dr Alex Ivanenko, HyPoint’s founder and chief executive, added: “With its massive technical and academic talent pool, a globally-recognised ecosystem of hydrogen manufacturers, and strong transport decarbonisation targets, the UK is well-positioned to become a global leader in the hydrogen economy.
“We are thrilled to bring our team and technology to the world-class Discovery Park science and innovation hub, which is already home to industry giants such as Pfizer. This location will enable us to accelerate the development and delivery of our hydrogen fuel cell technology to aviation and aeronautical companies in the UK and around the world.
“Our work is critical to unlocking further and faster decarbonisation of aviation and urban air mobility, whilst also creating economic activity and jobs across the country to support the long-term sustainability of the UK’s aviation industry.”
Aviation produced 2.4 per cent of global CO2 emissions in 2018, which as a country would rank it 6th in the world between Japan and Germany and represents a greater share of global CO2 emissions than the 136 lowest-polluting countries combined. Non-CO2 effects, such as warming induced by aircraft contrails and other pollutants, bring aviation’s combined total contribution to global warming to approximately 5 per cent.
Mayer Schreiber, CEO of Discovery Park, said: “Discovery Park has always sought to be home to companies tackling the biggest issues facing our global community. Harnessing hydrogen for aviation offers the potential to transform our economy and at the same time, protect our environment by dramatically reducing CO2 emissions.
“HyPoint’s multimillion pound arrival clearly demonstrates their confidence in Discovery Park as a home for world-leading industrial biotechnology delivered through global partnership and innovation.”
The arrival was also welcomed by Derek Murphy, Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Economic Development, who added: “HyPoint’s anticipated £11 million investment is a welcome boost for East Kent jobs and growth.
“The decision to base a state-of-the art R&D facility here is both a strong endorsement of KCC’s long-term support for Discovery Park and an exciting development which puts Kent at the forefront of the global green transport revolution.”
HyPoint’s NASA award-winning approach utilises compressed air for both cooling and oxygen supply to deliver a hydrogen fuel cell system that radically outperforms existing battery and hydrogen fuel cell alternatives. By utilising specialised high-temperature membranes and an industry-first air-cooling system, HyPoint’s technology is able to deliver unprecedented performance while reducing total system weight by more than 60 per cent.
With fossil fuelled airplanes sold today expected to be in operation for decades — and air transportation is expected to continually increase — aviation’s contribution to climate change is expected to grow rapidly compared with other sectors that are already decarbonising.
Strategic research provider BloombergNEF (BNEF) has projected that if nothing is done, annual aviation emissions will increase to 2.05 Gt in 2050 in a baseline scenario, a 92 per cent increase from 2019.
Testing has shown that HyPoint’s current system delivers 2,000 W/kg of specific power, more than triple the power-to-weight ratio of traditional liquid-cooled hydrogen fuel cells systems, and 1,500 Wh/kg of energy density, more than seven times the energy density of current battery systems.
In October 2021, HyPoint announced a partnership with BASF, the global chemical giant, to develop a cutting-edge hydrogen fuel cell membrane that will significantly increase HyPoint’s system level power as well as increase its durability and operating temperature. The new system, available in 2025, will be able to deliver more than 3,000 W/kg of specific power — at least a 50% increase over the current system — which is enough to satisfy the requirements of narrow-body aircraft.
Val Miftakhov, founder and CEO of ZeroAvia, who attended the opening of the HyPoint UK headquarters, added: “ZeroAvia and HyPoint are aligned in our vision to fully decarbonise the aviation industry and supplant fossil fuel powertrains with zero-emission hydrogen-electric powertrains.
“ZeroAvia is doing most of its R&D activity for our 10-20 seat engines in the UK and it’s great to have a leading fuel cell developer such as HyPoint nearby.”
In 2020 ZeroAvia, which has offices near Cirencester and in London, became the first company to successfully complete a hydrogen-electric passenger aircraft flight. It has raised $115 million from investors that include United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures (Bill Gates’ fund), Shell, and others.
In August 2021, HyPoint announced a partnership with Piasecki Aircraft to co-develop hydrogen fuel cell systems for eVTOL applications including its PA-890 Compound eVTOL Helicopter, which is expected to become the first hydrogen-powered manned helicopter when it is unveiled in 2025.
After the opening event, John Piasecki, President and CEO of Piasecki, added: “HyPoint is well-positioned to be the first company to bring to market hydrogen fuel cells that are uniquely designed for aircraft and aeronautical use.
“We are excited for the HyPoint team and look forward to co-developing full-scale systems for zero-emission eVTOL flight.”