Contrarian Ventures Invests in H2Pro — a Green Hydrogen Technology Startup
Seed round investment of $3.5m by Contrarian Ventures and a number of other strategic and financial investors including South Korean Automotive OEM
Conventional hydrogen production from fossil fuels, such as extraction from natural gas, results in around 2% of annual CO2 emissions, and with over 99% of the hydrogen produced today derived from fossil fuels. Electrolysis — splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable electricity — is a clean alternative for producing hydrogen. However, it is not very efficient, requiring large amounts of electricity, and is costly. The world requires an efficient and green way of producing hydrogen at scale.
That is exactly what the founders at H2Pro, a spin-off of the Technion Institute of Technology, aim to do. By developing E-TAC — an innovative, clean, inexpensive, and safe hydrogen production technology — the process produces 30% more hydrogen than traditional electrolysis per kWh and reaches 95% efficiency.
Making Hydrogen a New Norm
The startup has raised a seed round from Contrarian Ventures and notable strategic investors, like Hyundai Motor Company, one of the top automotive OEMs working on hydrogen-powered cars.
The high-tech startup is led by Talmon Marco, the CEO and investor of the company. This serial entrepreneur, who has successfully co-founded and exited his companies Viber to Rakuten for $900m in 2014 and Juno for $200m to Gett in 2017, is a big part of why we are so excited about the company. Having looked at this space for a while, we were sure that Talmon’s business knowledge and execution will be the right force to bring this technology developed by the leading Technion team to a global scale and accelerate the adoption of hydrogen.
The technology was developed by company co-founders Dr. Hen Dotan from the Technion’s Electrochemical Materials & Devices Lab, Prof. Avner Rothschild from the Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering, and Prof. Gideon Grader, Dean of the Faculty of Chemical Engineering. Dr. Dotan has left the Technion to become the company’s CTO, while Professors Grader and Rothschild serve as advisors to the company. Furthermore, the Technion Institute also participated in this round of financing.
The process discovered by the team is called Electrochemical-Thermally Activated Chemical (E-TAC) water splitting. It manages to decouple the hydrogen and oxygen production to two phases, which allows hydrogen to be produced more efficiently. In a nutshell, it works as follows: at the Electrical phase, electricity is used to produce hydrogen, similarly to electrolysis — but no oxygen is produced. Instead, the anode (the electrode where the oxidation process takes place) is charged similar to a battery. At the second phase, the anode is discharged — producing oxygen — without the need for electricity. A paper, describing E-TAC in-depth, was published in the prestigious Nature Energy.
The technology is highly effective, requiring up to 30% less electricity than modern electrolyzers, and reaching 95% efficiency. This results in lower hydrogen production costs. Further, unlike conventional electrolysis, no membranes (which degrade over time) are needed, the system is simpler thus reducing its cost and increasing its lifetime. Also, there are no precious metals used for the electrodes compared to traditional electrolysis, further reducing cost. As no membrane is needed, the technology is suitable for operating at very high pressure — reducing the need for an expensive compressor.
Reinvention of Hydrogen Production
The whole process has been vetted and validated by the prestigious Fraunhofer Institute and has a unique system design, which is simple and highly scalable due to modularity and semi-automation, with the goal of full automation in the future.
“Enabling clean hydrogen production at a wide-scale represents a paradigm shift to a cleaner and more sustainable fuel source for transportation and industrial sectors. In order to make hydrogen a mainstream fuel, we need to produce renewable hydrogen in large quantities, and H2Pro is doing just that,” stated Talmon Marco, CEO at H2Pro.
Convinced that hydrogen will play a key role in the energy transition, H2Pro patented technology makes it a pioneer in the development of scalable, cheap and green hydrogen production system. Commenting on this investment, Rokas Peciulaitis, Managing Partner at Contrarian Ventures, said: “Cost-effective hydrogen production at scale is one of the key technologies to accelerate the emergence of hydrogen as a sustainable energy carrier. We are more than ever convinced that hydrogen will play a major role in mitigating the effects of global warming. Drastically reducing CO2 emissions is vital for the planet, especially in steel and cement industries. H2Pro’s ambitious objective is to become the cheapest system capable to accelerate the adoption of hydrogen at scale in various use cases”.
The CEO of Ignitis Group, our utility LP, Darius Maikstenas, is excited to see the application of hydrogen in the energy sector as well - “Hydrogen is often viewed with high hopes. Further development of green energy solutions which H2Pro are doing will allow to significantly reduce air pollution as well as dependence on fossil fuels.”
A Fuel of the Future
Hydrogen is considered one of the most promising energy carriers for vehicles and various other use cases because it can be produced from water and therefore does not depend on access to non-renewable natural resources. Additionally, using hydrogen fuel would reduce dependence on fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas, whose availability depends on geographical, political and other factors, and would increase energy availability globally. Finally, unlike diesel and gasoline engines that emit considerable pollution into the air, the only byproduct of hydrogen fuel utilization is water.
That is why the world, and especially Japan (target of 800,000 fuel cell vehicles on the road fuelled from a network of 900 filling stations by 2030), South Korea (objective to become the top producer of hydrogen-powered cars and fuel cells globally by 2030 and increase fuel cell vehicles on the road to 6.2 million by 2040), Germany (intending to invest €100 million annually into the research of hydrogen technologies), as well as China and California are investing sizeable capital to programs for research and development of environmentally-friendly production of hydrogen. South Korea’s Hyundai and Japan’s Toyota are already leading players in bringing hydrogen-fueled vehicles to commercial series production.
H2Pro is planning to bring the cost of renewable hydrogen production to fossil fuel-derived levels in the next 5 years, which would be a groundbreaking achievement in accelerating hydrogen adoption at scale, seeing as the leading energy research and forecast organizations estimate that such milestone will be met only over the next decade.
There are already a number of historical and new technology companies commercially producing hydrogen, with about 53% of the hydrogen made today being used to produce ammonia for fertilizers and other substances, 20% used by refineries, 7% used in methanol production, and 20% serving other uses.
In the future, hydrogen is expected to serve additional applications, some of which are in accelerated stages of development: as fuel for fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV), fuel for storing energy from renewable energy sources for grid balancing and power-to-gas (P2G) applications, industrial and home heating, and more.
Bringing the cost of renewable Hydrogen production down also presents an unprecedented opportunity to remove carbon from a number of key energy-intensive industries and sectors.
Apart from the obvious choice for switching out carbon fuels in transportation and power production sectors, hydrogen presents an energy source and technology capable of delivering industrial heat, which many other renewable technologies are not able to do without exerting huge efficiency losses.
Some notable large carbon-emitting industries, which would benefit from a switch to cost-effective renewable hydrogen include steel, cement, ammonia, aluminum recycling, and glass production.
H2Pro is building the technology required to enable the acceleration of a global power shift. Headquartered in Israel, H2Pro provides an innovative, clean, inexpensive, and safe patented hydrogen production technology produces 30% more hydrogen than traditional electrolysis per kWh. The company is lead by an experienced team of hydrogen experts from the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology): Dr. Hen Dotan and Profs. Gideon Grader and Avner Rothschild in collaboration with the team that founded Viber, Juno and iMesh lead by senior entrepreneur Talmon Marco.
More info: https://www.h2pro.co
The Technion — Israel Institute of Technology is a public research university in Haifa, Israel. Established in 1912 during the Ottoman Empire and more than 35 years before the State of Israel, the Technion is the oldest university in the country and ranked the best university in Israel and the Middle East. The university offers degrees in science and engineering, and related fields such as architecture, medicine, industrial management and education. It is actively supporting its own researchers by investing in faculty and student-led spin-offs.
More info: https://www.technion.ac.il