US developer of hydrogen fuels Universal Hydrogen is opening an engineering and design center in Toulouse, France, an initiative that strengthens the alignment between the start-up and Airbus, which is working on a hydrogen aircraft concept.
Universal, which is headed by a former Airbus executive and has former Airbus executives as advisers, has also hired longtime Airbus veteran Pierre Farjounel as chief executive of its European operations.
The California-based company revealed the measurements on September 20.
Neither Universal nor Airbus have revealed the existence of any partnership between them.
“We cannot comment on the Airbus relationship at this time,” Universal told FlightGlobal. Airbus did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Universal’s new Toulouse site will be installed in Hangar B16 at Toulouse-Blagnac airport. The company does not confirm when the facility will open.
“As it grows during the year 2022, the engineering center will also support the development of conversion kits for the modernization of regional aircraft with a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain, as well as the development of a modular hydrogen storage technology for single-aisle unmanned aircraft. vehicle (UAV) and other applications, ”explains Universal.
The Toulouse facility will be the second such Universal site, the first being its headquarters at Hawthorne Municipal Airport, near Los Angeles.
In August 2020, former Airbus chief Paul Eremenko revealed that he had formed Universal Hydrogen, which aims to bring hydrogen-fuel technology and a related distribution system to aviation as early as the mid-2020s. proving the technology, Universal said it was modifying a De Havilland Canada Dash 8-300 turboprop to burn hydrogen. The company is also developing an ATR 72 turboprop engine running on hydrogen.
At the heart of Universal’s efforts is a “modular” hydrogen delivery system involving “liquid hydrogen capsules” that can be easily transported from distribution centers to airports, where they can be dropped on planes.
Eremenko, who joined Airbus in 2015, was CEO of its innovation arm in Silicon Valley Acubed before becoming CTO of Airbus. Eremenko left Airbus to join United Technologies (now Raytheon Technologies), where he also served as CTO before leaving that company in 2019.
Universal’s new European Managing Director, Farjounel, has been at the head of Airbus’ digital continuity and information systems for next-generation aircraft. Farjounel joined Airbus in 2013 and was chief of staff to the Airbus CTO when Eremenko held that position, according to LinkedIn profiles.
Earlier this year, Universal hired Mark Cousin – who was Acubed’s CEO after Eremenko – as vice president of engineering. He also recruited two former Airbus executives – former CEO Tom Enders and former commercial director John Leahy – as advisers.
In September 2020, Airbus unveiled concepts for three hydrogen aircraft that could be developed for entry into service within 15 years.