Led by researcher-entrepreneur Dr. Ivar Kruusenberg, PowerUP Energy Technologies has recently launched its first hydrogen fuel cell generator – the first of a product range set to cover plenty of use cases. Landing deals with institutional investors in the defence and aerospace industries all the while, it is clear that hydrogen sparks interest in European markets.
We sat down with the Founder and CEO of the company, Dr. Kruusenberg, to find out more about sizzling innovation in the energy sector, and how both individuals and larger organizations can have their say in the path towards using cleaner resources.
Clean power from hydrogen and oxygen, made simple
PowerUP’s smart generators are a plug-and-play solution requiring just two inputs:
- Hydrogen, from a dedicated tank such as those already available on the market;
- Oxygen, from the surrounding air available en masse on our planet.
“The fuel cell contains the generator, making the whole portable hardware solution what allows PowerUP’s devices to convert the chemical energy of hydrogen and oxygen into heat, water, and electricity. The waste resulting from this process is heat and water vapour, dispersing into the open air with null environmental impact,” Kruusenberg highlights.
Relatively easy to explain thanks to his expertise, but definitely more so to use in day-to-day activities. That is thanks to the development roadmap that took PowerUP to its first product launch last July – over 3 years of duration in total, starting in 2016 with pilot clients.
But what emerges too, is the strong research background and expertise that the company can capitalize upon in order to make innovation actually happen. For example, Kruusenberg holds a PhD in chemistry and has 15 years of experience in fuel cells, nanomaterials, hydrogen strategy. By all means, we are here talking about a deep tech startup that is democratizing access to sustainable energy sources, and doing so from Estonia and the US.
No such thing as ‘too many’ use cases
Portable power generators are already in use across the most diverse industries – from leisure to military operations. We can spot them in camping sites hosting vans, on boats, on exercise grounds. Essentially, anywhere electricity might not be available in a traditional way. But let’s be honest, they usually have notable downsides – we are aware of their presence either because of loud noises, bad smell, or the cloud of smoke some of them release.
“PowerUP Energy Technologies instead, is implementing the clean solution described across its whole product range exactly to cover a wide variety of use cases. The just-launched UP400 is just the beginning, as it testifies the high volume of orders the company has already received,” Kruusenberg says. Smaller (200W) and larger (1000W – 6000W) generators are already in the making, responding also to interest coming from far beyond ordinary retail customers.
Democratizing access to clean energy, then taking it to the Moon
PowerUP, in fact, is also committed to two other lines of activity. The first directs the company’s efforts towards improving access to hydrogen for everyone. In a way, the company is doing itself a favour – if hydrogen is more easily available, just as high could be the adoption of hydrogen-based power generators. Not coincidentally, this is also a favour to the planet. To this end, PowerUP is teaming with energy company Alexela to increase the presence of hydrogen cabinets across Estonia, with the first-ever of such kind already placed on the map.
Secondly, institutional partners have manifested clear, documented interest in what PowerUP has achieved and plans to do. First came the Estonian Ministry of Defence, which granted PowerUP with co-funding for the development of hydrogen-based power generators fit for military purposes.
Then, as of the beginning of this month, the company has landed a contract (pun intended) with the European Space Agency to develop a 1kW fuel cell stack to be used in space missions – yep, we talk Moon and Mars operations. “I believe fuel cell systems have a great potential in space missions to the Moon or to Mars, particularly to power supply robotic rovers and cargo ships, such as in the current case. We are extremely excited to be developing this under the European Space Agency’s guidance,” Kruusenberg proudly explains.
The difference with the earthly version of the product lies in the fact that there is no oxygen in space. “To tackle this, with the help of ESA we will develop a closed cathode hydrogen fuel cells stack that could work in such missions. This stack would serve as an additional energy source that will be integrated with solar panels and batteries,” Kruusenberg concludes.
Will this create a smart grid, but in space? Okay, think about it this way – everyone can already make their own smart grid at home since these fuel cells are already available on the market. How cool would it be to say that your smart generator is pretty similar to that powering a Mars rover?