American Airlines Invests in Aviation-Focused Green Hydrogen Startup Universal Hydrogen

American Airlines announced that it has made an equity investment in aviation-focused green hydrogen distribution and logistics network provider Universal Hydrogen.

Founded in 2020, Universal Hydrogen is building a hydrogen logistics network using modular hydrogen capsules that are handled like cargo, eliminating the need for the development of new fueling infrastructure at airports, and enabling faster fuel loading operations.

The aviation industry has come under scrutiny as a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, responsible for 2-3% of global emissions, with that figure potentially rising dramatically over the coming decades if no action is taken. Several initiatives are being pursued in order to address the climate impact of the industry, typically involving efforts to improve aircraft efficiency, develop sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), or create aircraft utilizing low or zero carbon propulsion systems such as electric or hydrogen-based.

While many initiatives are currently targeting areas allowing for more rapid sector decarbonization, such as electrified propulsion or SAF, hydrogen is viewed by some in the industry as a more promising long-term solution, given its potential to be produced through carbon-free methods, and its energy attributes. According to Universal Energy, hydrogen contains 3x more energy per weight than jet fuel. Hurdles remain, however, to the implementation of hydrogen as an industry solution, including the need to significantly scale up clean hydrogen extraction capacity, and the deployment of distribution infrastructure.

Other strategic investors in Universal Hydrogen include Airbus Ventures, GE Aviation and Toyota Ventures, as well as several major hydrogen producers and aircraft lessors.

Paul Eremenko, co-founder and CEO of Universal Hydrogen, said:

“Together with our investors, we are putting together the end-to-end value chain to make hydrogen aviation a near-term commercial reality. 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.”

According to American Airlines, the investment supports the company’s sustainability goals, including its targets to reduce carbon intensity per unit of passenger and cargo payload by 45% by 2035, and to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

American’s Chief Financial Officer Derek Kerr, said:

“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. Our investment in Universal Hydrogen represents a vote of confidence for green hydrogen as a key element of a sustainable future for our industry.”