Plug Power Makes New Bet on Hydrogen Planes With Airflow Deal
(Bloomberg) -- Plug Power Inc. will invest in electric aviation startup Airflow and co-develop an aircraft propulsion system powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
While the two companies didn’t disclose the size of the investment, it represents Plug’s latest effort to explore hydrogen as a clean aviation fuel. Plug, which built its business making fuel cells for forklifts, has already invested in Universal Hydrogen Co., which is retrofitting a regional airplane to run on fuel cells. And in 2019, Plug bought EnergyOr, which makes ultralight fuel cells for aerial drones.
Started in 2019 by five Airbus SE veterans, Airflow is designing a 9-passenger plane that will fly short distances, between 50 and 500 miles. It will require relatively little runway to take off and land, allowing airlines to tap thousands of smaller, little-used airports across the country, said co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Marc Ausman. The idea is to coax travelers out of their cars for many trips, and cut greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.
“We are solving the problem directly -- we’re not asking customers to buy carbon offsets,” Ausman said. “This means you can move 9 people from A to B with zero emissions.” Airflow, based in San Francisco, has not yet disclosed how much funding it has raised.
Fuel cells generate electricity through an electrochemical process rather than combustion, and when running on hydrogen, they produce no carbon emissions.
Plug, based in Latham, New York, aims to become a major supplier of “green hydrogen,” which is stripped from water using renewable power in a process that gives no greenhouse gases. The company also is investing in other uses for hydrogen and fuel cells, forming a joint venture with Renault SA to build hydrogen-powered vans.
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