Advanced Ionics, a climate technology A startup from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is working to bring down the price of green hydrogen by cutting the electricity needed for electrolysis by as much as 50 percent.
It’s an admirable goal because despite all the talk of hydrogen as the “fuel of the future,” the industry is still largely dirty – fueling climate chaos through polluting production methods.
Much of the hydrogen produced by humans is “grey”; a classification that means producers rely on methane (or worse, burning coal) to separate the element for fertilizer and fuel. But as awareness of climate change and interest in hydrogen-powered freight grows, so does the need for eco-friendly alternatives. In contrast to the grey stuff, “green” hydrogen uses renewable energy and electrolysis to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. This is a superior production method in terms of climate, but it is also expensive because it requires a lot of clean energy.
As Advanced Ionics founder Chad Mason puts it, the startup’s upcoming electrolyzer will “produce one kilogram of hydrogen using 35 kWh at 300 degrees Celsius” while harnessing industrial heat, non-ceramic materials (at sub-typical temperature)) and steam instead of liquid water. According to the CEO, “Existing technology is typically 45 to 60 [Kilowatt-hours] Actually, ranking.
The executive was speaking today at the TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield in San Francisco.
There are other ways to reduce electrolysis costs, such as making cheaper electrolysis cells and limiting maintenance. “But if you don’t address electricity usage and electricity prices, that’s okay,” Mason told TechCrunch. The company’s goal is to reduce electricity use by 20 to 50 percent.
The CEO said his interest in electrolyzers was first sparked by anhydrous ammonia fertilizer, which his family applies to crops on North Dakota farms. “So I understood very early on,” Mason said, “the importance of hydrogen for making all these important commodities and chemicals, which are also very polluting industries.”
Advanced Ionics has a long way to go with $4.2 million in seed funding from Boston Clean Energy Ventures and the Texas-based SWAN Impact Network. The company aims to deploy “demonstration units with several partners” and start sales next year, with a commercial launch planned for 2025. Then, “we’re going to try to really make a difference and produce as many of them as possible and try to have as big an impact as possible as soon as possible in the second half of the century,” Mason said.