HyPoint hires industry veterans as it pursues hydrogen fuel cells for eVTOL aircraft

By eVTOL | July 8, 2020

Estimated reading time 4 minutes, 39 seconds.

The California-based startup HyPoint has added three new members to its team as it pursues development of hydrogen fuel cell systems for eVTOL and urban air mobility aircraft.

HyPoint hydrogen fuel cell on drone
HyPoint has already commercialized hydrogen fuel cells for small UAVs. Now, the company is pursuing new technology for the urban air mobility market. HyPoint Photo

Dr. Brian Benicewicz is joining HyPoint as head of science. The holder of almost 50 U.S. patents, Benicewicz has held positions at the University of South Carolina and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in addition to various scientific and management positions in the private sector and at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He co-founded H2 Pump LLC, a manufacturer of electrochemical hydrogen purification systems, and invented and developed the polybenzimidazole (PBI) high-temperature proton exchange membrane (HTPEM) found in many fuel cell systems today.

John Vogel, a founder of Combined Energies, is coming on board as chief engineer of HTPEM stack, responsible for developing HyPoint’s power generation module including stack design, stack materials, balance of plant design, and algorithm of operation. From 2011 to 2016, Vogel held the position of VP of Technology Development at GE Ventures. Prior to GE, he held various leadership positions at Plug Power for over a decade.

Rhonda Staudt is joining HyPoint as chief engineer of HTPEM membrane electrode assembly (MEA), responsible for developing a fuel cell including design of MEAs, gaskets, manufacturing and tooling. She is a founding member of Combined Energies, where she directs the company operations focused on DC-to-DC converter technology for alternative energy. Previously, she served as director of operations at H2Pump and VP of operations for Plug Power’s stationary fuel cell division.

According to HyPoint founder and CEO Alex Ivanenko, the expanded team represents “a new hydrogen fuel cell vanguard” with decades of experience in engineering and delivering next-generation energy solutions. The company also announced it has joined the California Hydrogen Business Council, a membership-based trade association formed to advance the widespread commercialization of hydrogen power.

HyPoint has already commercialized low-temperature proton exchange membrane (LTPEM) systems for the small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market. Now, the company is pursuing HTPEM technology to provide “a truly lightweight, climate-independent powertrain for air transportation and the urban air mobility market with extended lifespan,” Ivanenko told eVTOL.com.

As described in its technical white paper, HyPoint has developed a method for recirculating exhaust air through a fuel cell stack, increasing the power of air-cooled fuel cell systems that are simpler and lighter in weight than their liquid-cooled counterparts. Along with its other proprietary technologies, HyPoint believes this can provide a more practical energy storage system for passenger-carrying eVTOL aircraft than today’s lithium batteries.

HyPoint recently announced an agreement with Israel’s Urban Aeronautics to incorporate hydrogen power into its CityHawk eVTOL aircraft. Ivanenko told eVTOL.com that HyPoint is in discussions with other potential customers as well, and has already signed $6 million in letters of intent.

Now, the company is working on a 500-W to 1-kW short stack to validate performance of its HTPEM fuel cell, with plans to create a larger working prototype system by the end of this year or early next year, Ivanenko said. The company expects to have a full-scale system of 100 kW to 150 kW ready for customer validation by the first quarter of 2022.

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