American Airlines Invests in Universal Hydrogen Co.

American Airlines made a strategic investment in Universal Hydrogen Co., the airline announced this week. (Photo: Universal Hydrogen)

American Airlines announced this week that it has made a strategic investment in Universal Hydrogen Co., joining other investors such as Airbus Ventures, GE Aviation, and Toyota Ventures. The company Universal Hydrogen is developing a hydrogen logistics network as well as a conversion kit for modifying existing aircraft to enable them to use hydrogen. 

The company has also designed lightweight modular hydrogen capsules that can be handled like cargo and loaded straight into the aircraft. The company has claimed that the modular capsule is twice as efficient in terms of weight compared with traditional hydrogen storage. Using these hydrogen capsules at airports could make building new fueling infrastructure unnecessary.

Earlier this year, American made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (per unit of passenger and cargo payload) by 45% by the year 2035. The airline also intends to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Chief Financial Officer at American, Derek Kerr, commented on the investment in Universal Hydrogen, saying: “This technology has the potential to be a game-changer on the industry’s path to zero-emission flight.”

“As the world’s largest airline, American has a responsibility to exercise leadership in making aviation sustainable,” Kerr added. “Our investment in Universal Hydrogen represents a vote of confidence for green hydrogen as a key element of a sustainable future for our industry.” 

Universal Hydrogen aims to begin delivering hydrogen for regional aircraft, like the one pictured above, in 2025, “with plans to expand its services to larger, single aisle aircraft—first for auxiliary power in the late-2020s and then as a primary fuel by the mid-2030s,” according to the announcement. (Photo: Universal Hydrogen)

Universal Hydrogen aims to begin delivering hydrogen for regional aircraft in 2025. The company also plans to expand its offering to fuel larger single-aisle aircraft over the next decade.

Paul Eremenko, co-founder and CEO of Universal Hydrogen, said in response to the announcement, “Together with our investors, we are putting together the end-to-end value chain to make hydrogen aviation a near-term commercial reality.” 

Eremenko also noted, “This move by American is a strong signal that customers want a true zero-emissions solution for passenger aviation and are willing to back tangible, pragmatic steps to get there quickly.” 

American’s commitment to sustainability was also demonstrated in an announcement in August from the airline. American signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with ZeroAvia to support the company’s development of hydrogen-electric powertrain technology. The airline also has the option to order up to 100 hydrogen-electric engines from ZeroAvia.

ZeroAvia received investments from both United Airlines and Alaska Air Group in 2021. The company signed agreements with Ravn Alaska, MONTE Aircraft Leasing, and MHI RJ Aviation Group this year, in addition to signing an MOU with ZEV Station to form a partnership for research into hydrogen-electric propulsion systems.

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