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Top 10 Hydrogen Economy Trends & Innovations in 2021

Are you curious about which trends & startups will soon impact your business? Explore our in-depth industry research on 1.730 hydrogen startups & scaleups and get data-driven insights into technology-based solutions in our Hydrogen Innovation Map!

The establishment of a hydrogen economy has long been in the works, but due to several reasons, such as lack of technology, infrastructure, or investments, the industry struggled with this energy transition. Over the past decade, however, with the global push towards decarbonization, along with developments in existing technologies, the hydrogen economy is poised to accelerate at scale. Fuel cells have the biggest impact, aiding in zero-emissions heavy-duty vehicles, which currently contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. The scalability and affordability of renewable energy systems, as well as advancements in electrolyzers, allow for sustainable hydrogen production, also called green hydrogen. Technologies that utilize hydrogen to synthesize intermediaries further increase hydrogen’s utility as an energy carrier. The following top 10 hydrogen economy trends reduce human dependence on fossil fuels and streamline the efficiency of industrial operations.

Innovation Map outlines the Top 10 Hydrogen Economy Trends & 20 Promising Startups

For this in-depth research on the Top 10 Hydrogen Economy Trends & Startups, we analyzed a sample of 1.730 global startups and scaleups. The result of this research is data-driven innovation intelligence that improves strategic decision-making by giving you an overview of emerging technologies & startups in the hydrogen economy. These insights are derived by working with our Big Data & Artificial Intelligence-powered StartUs Insights Discovery Platform, covering 2.093.000+ startups & scaleups globally. The platform quickly delivers an exhaustive overview of emerging technologies within a specific field as well as identifies relevant startups & scaleups early on.

In the Innovation Map below, you get an overview of the Top 10 Hydrogen Economy Trends & Innovations that impact companies worldwide. Moreover, the Hydrogen Innovation Map reveals 20 hand-picked startups, all working on emerging technologies that advance their field.

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Tree Map reveals the Impact of the Top 10 Hydrogen Economy Trends

The Tree Map below illustrates the impact of the Top 10 Hydrogen Economy trends on companies in 2021. The hydrogen economy will be bolstered by the applications of fuel cells, fuel cell vehicles, and emergy demand. In particular, renewable hydrogen, as well as carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) have a major influence on all other trends because of their inter-relationship with clean hydrogen production. Biomass gasification, among the set of X-to-Hydrogen-to-X technologies, provides another sustainable method for creating hydrogen. Besides, hydrogen distribution and storage go hand-in-hand as distribution relies directly on the proper storage and handling capabilities of the fuel. Finally, other important applications of hydrogen which include combined heat and power (CHP) and green propulsion, which demonstrate the versatility of hydrogen as an energy carrier.

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Global Startup Heat Map covers 1.730 Hydrogen Startups & Scaleups

The Global Startup Heat Map below highlights the global distribution of the 1.730 exemplary startups & scaleups that we analyzed for this research. Created through the StartUs Insights Discovery Platform, the Heat Map reveals that the US & Europe are home to most of these companies while we also observe increased activity in India.

Below, you get to meet 20 out of these 1.730 promising startups & scaleups as well as the solutions they develop. These 20 startups were hand-picked based on criteria such as founding year, location, funding raised, and more. Depending on your specific needs, your top picks might look entirely different.

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Top 10 Hydrogen Economy Trends in 2021

1. Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Hydrogen fuel cells provide instantaneous power generation and also aid in demand response. The latter is especially relevant as hydrogen bridges the gap between fluctuations in power generation for renewable energy systems (RES) and a grid powered solely by renewables. Hydrogen fuel cells solve demand response problems by acting as a power source as well as reserve energy for months. Fuel cells are also in use for marine, land, and aviation operations, as well as in ships, trains, planes, drones, cars, trucks, and buses. In particular, heavy industrial vehicles become the primary focal point in the hydrogen economy because of their considerable contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

H2X designs Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles

Australian startup H2X designs and develops hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles. Snowy SUV is their consumer car solution that utilizes both hydrogen fuel cell technology and battery-electric technology, achieving zero-emissions mobility. The car requires only 5 minutes for refueling and also provides a range of 650 km per refill. Furthermore, the car comes with an antimicrobial finish on all regular touch surfaces, ensuring additional safety for all occupants. H2X also develops hydrogen fuel cell vans and heavy industrial vehicles.

BWR Innovations develops Portable Hydrogen Fuel Cells

US-based startup BWR Innovations provides portable hydrogen fuel cell solutions. Sol Source SFC110 Fuel Cell Generator is BWR Innovations’ fuel cell-powered sanitization product. It is a portable fuel cell generator and heater that inactivates a variety of biological contaminants, including viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi. The device disinfects rooms of up to 600 sq. ft without leaving residual chemicals or toxins. This allows for emission-free sanitization of facilities and equipment, including medical personal protective equipment (PPE). Users also monitor the products from their computers or mobile devices.

2. Renewable Hydrogen

Producing hydrogen from renewable sources of energy helps in achieving large-scale decarbonization. Using RES to produce green hydrogen eliminates the carbon emissions typically prevalent in conventional hydrogen production from fossil fuels. Solar energy presents options for hydrogen production, for example, through photocatalytic water splitting or thermochemical water splitting. By using solar concentrators in these arrangements, startups achieve high levels of radiation to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. In addition, wind turbines also contribute to green hydrogen production through electrolysis. Coupled with fuel cells or hydrogen carriers, renewable sources allow for effective power demand response. Although at a smaller scale currently, some companies do utilize hydropower to produce hydrogen.

HiSeas Energy leverages Offshore Wind Turbine Platforms for Hydrogen Production

US-based startup HiSeas Energy develops offshore wind turbines to power electrolyzers. The HiSeas Free-Floating Offshore Wind Turbine (FFWOT) platform provides a low-cost, low-mass, and stable platform for turbines up to 40 MW. Energy delivery to shore is completed using liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHC), with green hydrogen supplied from the electrolysis of water. Each electrolysis/LOHC platform is attached to HiSeas’ turbines via ocean bottom power cables.

HY2GEN develops Solar-Powered Hydrogen

German startup HY2GEN utilizes solar energy to produce green hydrogen. The startup’s project SUNRHYSE powers a 30 MW electrolysis plant using green electricity via solar panels. In the process, the startup supplies hydrogen for the mobility and maritime sectors. The aim of this project is to enable competitive pricing of hydrogen, ensure transportation and distribution, as well as establish power storage facilities to supplement the grid. HY2GEN is involved in several other projects, like HYNOVERA that synthesizes e-fuels through biomass gasification, or JANGADA, which synthesizes bio-methanol through green hydrogen.

3. Advanced Electrolysis

The development of advanced electrolysis technologies primarily allows for the greater scalability of hydrogen production units. Increasingly favored because of reduction in operating expenditures, as well as capital expenditures, proton exchange membrane or polymer electrolyte membrane electrolyzers (PEM) serve both industrial and residential purposes. Solid oxide electrolyzers (SOE) and anion-exchange membrane electrolyzers (AEM) are some of the other prevalent types of electrolyzers. Because of the low operating temperature, SOEs do not utilize precious metals as catalysts, while AEM electrolyzers are a type of alkaline electrolyzers, where, instead of hydrogen ions, hydroxide ions flow across the membrane. The overall efficiency of electrolyzers depends on the bipolar plates, the material of the electrodes, and the catalysts used in the reaction. This is where startups and emerging companies develop new innovations

Alchemr designs AEM Electrolyzers

US-based startup Alchemr designs AEM electrolyzers to produce hydrogen. Their AEM technology allows for low electrolyte degradation with the use of thin durable membranes, resulting in optimal hydrogen production. These electrolyzers do not require noble metals as catalysts, thus reducing capital expenditures. The AEM electrolyzers are connected to RES power inputs or scaled up for large-size hydrogen production, with a capacity of up to 100 MW.

H2B2 engineers Large-Scale Electrolyzers

Spanish startup H2B2 designs scalable electrolyzers for both residential and industrial use. EL580N is the startup’s large-scale electrolyzer, with the capacity to produce 1,251 kgs of hydrogen per day. The startup custom-builds the electrolyzer according to regional standards while integrating it into a 40 ft container. The electrolyzer comes with CE marking and hazard & operability studies (HAZOP) conducted, along with an option for ETL stamps. In addition, the startup manufactures a wide array of other electrolyzers, ranging from small-scale to medium-scale.

4. X-to-Hydrogen-to-X

The hydrogen economy depends not only on hydrogen but also on chemical intermediaries of the fuel that are useful in their own capacities. e-Fuels, such as e-methanol, produce low carbon emissions, originate from hydrogen, and are directly integrable into internal combustion (IC) engines. Methanol and methane are other chemicals that are by-products of hydrogen production and apply hydrogen back into circulation. Especially critical in terms of decarbonization is the conversion of waste to hydrogen. Nowadays, startups achieve this through gasification, pyrolysis, fermentation, and reforming processes. Waste-to-hydrogen solutions aim to solve the waste crisis while producing hydrogen with zero or low carbon emissions.

Aquaneers synthesizes Methanol from Renewable Hydrogen

US-based startup Aquaneers produces methanol from hydrogen using a novel nanomaterial platform. The platform, Plasmonic Ribbon, comprises metallic nanorod arrays engineered on the surface of the flexible glass using roll-to-roll manufacturing techniques. Methanol is produced from the reaction of carbon dioxide and hydrogen. When the surface of the Plasmonic Ribbon is catalytically tailored for this reaction, the plasmonic interaction will lower the activation energy and allow chemical synthesis to proceed more efficiently. This leads to reductions in energy consumption costs and subsequently – for production of other methanol-based industrial products.

Ossus Biorenewables utilizes Wastewater for Hydrogen Production

Indian startup Ossus Biorenewables produces biohydrogen from wastewater. The startup’s device, OB HYDRACEL, is a self-powered solution that produces hydrogen from effluents at industrial sites. It is a retrofittable device, with its own power generator, designed to resemble pipelines, which can be directly attached to effluent pipelines in factories and industrial venues. The solution enables both the purification of wastewater and the production of hydrogen, stored or used for industrial applications.

5. Hydrogen Carriers

Although hydrogen is typically transported in liquid or gaseous form, the handling and operating constraints of pure hydrogen put a heavy strain on the storage containers. Hydrogen carriers are hydrides or compounds of hydrogen, forming through the chemical reaction of a metal or a chemical with hydrogen. Typically, this is easy to transport over long distances. Storing these carriers is also convenient and, with additional research and development (R&D) into hydrogen carriers, startups look to increase the purity and efficiency of the separation process to produce the hydrogen. Metal hydrides, like magnesium hydride, further possess the capacity to chemically store hydrogen in their metallic lattice. LOHC, chemical hydrides, and nanostructures are also under investigation and development for transporting hydrogen.

Flux Technology produces Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOF) for Hydrogen Storage

US-based nanotechnology startup Flux Technology develops MOF nanocomposites for hydrogen storage and transportation. MOFs usually consist of a regular array of positively charged metal ions surrounded by organic linker molecules. Adsorption of hydrogen on porous MOF nanocomposites increases the energy density of hydrogen fuel in storage tanks for mobile applications. This leads to a higher storage capacity at a lower weight constraint to the vehicle. The startup also produces Flux Modules, which are large-volume gas separation devices.

H2Heat Technology engineers Metal Alloys for Hydrogen Storage

Canadian startup H2Heat provides metallic alloys for the storage of hydrogen. H2Heat’s novel hydrogen storage system stores hydrogen atoms in a solid-state nanocomposite based on complex metallic alloys using atomic bonds and a micro-heat transfer system. The H2 gas passes through a special plate to dissociate the hydrogen molecules to hydroxide atoms. The product stores hydrogen at a higher storage density than compressed hydrogen, at high purity (99.99%). Because it operates at a lower pressure, the platform is also a safer alternative than traditional storage systems.

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6. Carbon Capture, Utilization & Storage (CCUS)

The current global production of hydrogen primarily uses fossil fuels, making it unsustainable. Popular methods like steam methane reforming and coal gasification contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, and until alternatives become cost- and power-effective, these will continue to be the main sources of hydrogen production. Incorporating CCUS, or blue hydrogen technologies drastically reduce the environmental impact of conventional production methods and increases the sustainability of the processes. These technologies are incorporated into large-scale hydrogen production venues to decrease carbon emissions or convert them into usable feedstock for other processes. For example, CCUS enables the production of fertilizers and is useful in enhanced oil recovery (EOR). Moreover, forming solid carbon by-products is an effective method of reusing the wastes of hydrogen production. Furthermore, redirecting gaseous carbon emissions for use in other industrial processes ensures zero waste and emission loops.

Susteon leverages CCUS to produce Blue Hydrogen

US-based startup Susteon works towards producing blue hydrogen by introducing CCUS technologies. Susteon develops compact distributed H2 generators to create high-purity pressurized hydrogen while capturing CO2. This technology is based on a catalytic nonthermal plasma that activates methane to produce syngas. The syngas is purified and compressed to generate high-pressure, high-purity carbon-free hydrogen. The startup also develops nano-catalysts for carbon-free methane pyrolysis, producing blue hydrogen.

Horisont Energi uses CCUS to synthesize Blue Hydrogen and Blue Ammonia

Norwegian startup Horisont Energi produces blue hydrogen. Arctic Blue Hydrogen is the startups’ product, which helps in delivering blue hydrogen to the hydrogen economy. With their carbon storage solution Polaris, the company utilizes hydrogen to produce blue ammonia to allow for transportation and storage of the blue hydrogen. The startup contributes to the widespread usage of hydrogen through the production and transportation of blue ammonia. The ammonia is cracked back to hydrogen at the destination, and besides this, ammonia by itself provides 4.02 MWh of carbon-free energy per cubic meter, contending as a powerful source of emissions-free energy.

7. Hydrogen Distribution

A major hurdle for building the hydrogen economy is the transportation and distribution of the fuel. Depending on the site of production and usage, different methods of distribution are under consideration. The regional distribution of hydrogen through new pipelines or retrofitting current natural gas pipelines is gaining traction. Trains and ships also transport hydrogen, in either liquid or gaseous form, across regions. Tube trailers and liquid tankers are viable solutions for distributing hydrogen through highways. The handling of the hydrogen storage containers is important because of the flammability and material-embrittling nature of hydrogen. Hydrogen refueling stations also enable hydrogen highways and mitigate refueling challenges of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, especially in trucks and buses.

Hydroco develops Hydrogen Distribution Infrastructure

US-based startup Hydroco develops cross-industry solutions for hydrogen distribution. The startup provides gas transportation services to supply bulk hydrogen gas on-site for customers. By selling and renting tube trailers, it accelerates the establishment of the hydrogen economy. The startup is involved in providing need-specific solutions for the transportation and storage of compressed hydrogen gas. Hydroco also provides consultations for compressed gas systems and portable refueling stations for CNG.

Hiringa Energy establishes a Hydrogen Refuelling Network

New Zealand-based startup Hiringa Energy accelerates the hydrogen economy by developing a hydrogen refueling network across New Zealand. Focused primarily on the heavy vehicles market, Hiringa devises a three-phase plan for the construction of the refueling network. The final goal of this plan is to provide access to over 100 refueling stations by 2030. The refueling network includes centralized generation units with distributed refueling, distributed generation, and third-party generation with offtake. The startup factors in distance from hydrogen supply sites and frequency of aggregation of fleets when choosing refueling sites.

8. Hydrogen Liquefaction & Compression

The need to develop containers that store hydrogen is crucial for scaling the hydrogen economy. The most usable form of storing liquid hydrogen is in cryogenic tanks, also known as dewars. These containers handle liquid hydrogen at a temperature of -253 C, without leakages, while sustaining purity. There are various types of dewars ranging from Type I to Type IV, depending on the materials in the walls and their carrying capacity. In addition, compressed gas storage tanks are useful to store high-pressure hydrogen gas. Hydrogen gas is relatively easier to handle in comparison to liquified hydrogen because of the temperature constraints of liquid hydrogen. However, it is not ready to use in industrial applications. Cryo-compressed hydrogen involves high-pressure storage of hydrogen to decrease boil-off upon exposure to the atmosphere, making it cost-effective and easy to handle.

Verne designs Compressed Hydrogen Storage Tanks

US-based startup Verne develops storage tanks for compressed hydrogen to be used in fuel cell trucks. As compared to traditional fuel cell hydrogen storage tanks, Verne has engineered storage tanks with higher volumetric density and lower weight, enabling hydrogen to be stored at lower pressures. The cumulative results of these changes lead to a safer storage tank that weighs less, is cost-effective, and accommodates higher amounts of hydrogen at each refill.

CYRUS develops Hydrogen Compressors

Greek startup CYRUS designs metal hydride hydrogen compressors (MHC) for transportation applications. The startup has developed a thermal-powered MHC that works by absorbing hydrogen at low pressure and temperature and desorbing it at higher pressure by raising the temperature with an external heat source. These compressors are suitable for operation in RES or industrial waste heat facilities and do not use critical raw materials. Furthermore, due to zero noise and low ecological impact production, the compressors can be installed in residential areas.

9. Combined Heat & Power (CHP)

Decarbonizing the CHP sector is one of the goals of the hydrogen economy. Current methodologies include blending hydrogen by combining a lean mixture of hydrogen in existing natural gas pipelines, enabling industrial and residential heating. Current standards allow the mixture to include up to 10% hydrogen and allow existing pipelines to safely handle the gas. Blended hydrogen is also useful in stationary gas turbines and generators since it reduces greenhouse gas emissions during power generation. Besides, novel types of combustion boilers and hybrid heat pumps also use hydrogen to achieve sustainable heating.

Turbotec designs Hydrogen Gas Turbines

Belgian startup Turbotec develops hydrogen gas turbines for CHP. The startup’s hydrogen-fuelled gas turbine, TURBOTEC HyTG-550 is designed as marine propulsion and generator unit. The engine offers 550kW of electric power and in a CHP unit, it provides up to 950kW of thermal power. The turbine is modular and can fit in a 20 ft. high cube shipping container. Furthermore, the turbine is suitable for parallelization to obtain the desired power output in a larger hybrid-electric system. The startup also offers HyTG-100, a hydrogen-fuelled gas turbine generator, suitable for light hybrid-electric aviation and power generation in CHP or offshore units.

Protium Green Solutions develops Hydrogen-Based Industrial Heating Solutions

British startup Protium Green Solutions, a green hydrogen energy services company, implements CHP solutions for hydrogen-based industrial heating. Project HyLADDIE is the startup’s pilot project implementing zero emission industrial heating. The project will enact the installation and operation of dynamic combustion chambers (DCC) which use hydrogen as fuel. The startup also provides hydrogen-ready burners, CHP systems, and boiler products to deliver zero-emission heat solutions using green hydrogen as a source. Besides CHP, the startup works on zero-emission aviation – specifically, Project Heart – the startup’s hydrogen-based aviation endeavor.

10. Hydrogen Propulsion

Utilizing Hydrogen as a fuel for space propulsion is promising since it has a decent energy-to-density ratio as liquid hydrogen. Propulsion entails the direct usage of hydrogen fuel to power rockets, airplanes, and jets, with liquid oxygen-hydrogen systems gaining in popularity for space propulsion. Recent developments in space technology see blending hydrogen with other fuels to power turbines and propellants to achieve green propulsion. Hybrid-electric systems are especially remarkable in terms of achieving low emissions mobility. Hydrogen peroxide, a derivative of hydrogen, is an alternative fuel under R&D for its potential utility as space vehicle propulsion.

Turbotech develops Hydrogen-Powered Turbogenerators

French startup Turbotech designs hybrid-electric propulsion systems for airplanes and electric-vertical take-off and landing (E-VTOL) vehicles. TG-R55 and TG-R90 are the startup’s turbogenerators that produce electric power onboard. When used in conjunction with batteries, they offer up to 10 times more range, compared to full-electric plane systems. The turbogenerators combine electric generators and turbines, fitted with integrated annular exchangers which enable exhaust gas energy recovery. The startup’s turbogenerators allow for lower weight expenditure on the vehicle, increasing efficiency of travel. The startup also designs a low emission turboprop engine, TP-R90.

Ursa Major Technologies designs Liquid Hydrogen Propulsion Systems

US-based startup Ursa Major Technologies engineers liquid hydrogen propulsion systems. Samus is the startup’s 50,000 lbf liquid hydrogen engine. It is a fuel-rich staged combustion upper-stage propulsion solution, eligible for medium and heavy class space-launch applications. The solution produces zero emissions and its architecture is derived from the startup’s previous projects – Hadley, an oxidizer-rich staged combustion engine, and Ripley, a 35,000 lbf liquid oxygen and kerosene engine.

Discover all Hydrogen Economy Trends & Startups

The top 10 hydrogen economy trends intend to promote sustainability of industrial operations, as well as advance the rate of decarbonization. There is a lot of scope for innovation in hydrogen storage and distribution, where carriers developed using nanotechnology will play a big role. The hydrogen pipeline initially consists of blended hydrogen solutions, with retrofitted pipelines or a newly developed network on the horizon. The overall milestone of all the above-mentioned hydrogen economy trends is to establish an alternative to the current paradigm of dependence on fossil fuels for all consumer, business, and industrial activities.

The Hydrogen Economy Trends & Startups outlined in this report only scratch the surface of trends that we identified during our in-depth research. Among others, novel production and hydrogen infrastructure development is set to transform the sector as we know it today. Identifying new opportunities and emerging technologies to implement into your business early on goes a long way in gaining a competitive advantage. Get in touch to easily and exhaustively scout relevant technologies & startups that matter to you.

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