The path to entrepreneurship is sometimes obvious, even if founders don’t always realize it.

That’s certainly true for Jimmy Rojas, who took the first steps toward founding his startup, Evoloh, three years ago while he was a graduate student in hydrogen and energy systems at Stanford University. That continues as he analyzes potential deals at Baruch Future Ventures.

“I’ve been looking at the hydrogen deal,” Rojas told TechCrunch. “I remember the guys joking that I was a bad investor because I walked away from every deal because I found problems with every company. At the end of the day, we thought, it would be better if I started my own.”

Hydrogen has become a key ingredient for many chemical manufacturers, and startups and investors believe it can help eliminate carbon pollution in everything from steel and cement to aviation and long-distance trucking. Drawing on his own experience, Rojas feels he has a good sense of where the problems with hydrogen lie. For him, the biggest challenge is making the hydrogen electrolyser.

“Electrolysers are very expensive. They are really difficult to produce, have complicated logistics, are difficult to transport and install, and are often mired in supply chains with political and environmental issues,” he said.

Rojas’ company, Evoloh, is trying to solve all of these problems at once, focusing not on new materials like hydrogen startups do, but on manufacturing. In the process, he hopes to make hydrogen a key component of the world’s energy system.

“Clean, cheap hydrogen could become a platform for the development of entirely new industries in the future,” Rojas said.

Many companies spend a lot of time making specialized membranes, one of the key components for separating hydrogen from water. But Rojas doubts that if hydrogen becomes a large enough market, electrolysers will become commercially available quickly. Even today, membrane development has become something of an arms race: “There’s always going to be someone with a better one,” he says.

Evoloh does make its own designed electrolyser based on alkaline electrolysis. In an alkaline electrolyzer, two electrodes are immersed in an aqueous alkaline solution (usually consisting of a high concentration of potassium or sodium hydroxide). When an electric current flows through alkaline water, it splits the water on one side into hydrogen gas and hydroxide, and combines the hydroxide on the other side into water and oxygen.

Alkaline electrolysis differs from the other major method (proton exchange membrane electrolysis) in several ways. One of the most important factors, however, is that alkaline electrolysis does not require expensive rare metals such as platinum. This makes alkaline electrolysers cost-effective from the start, Evoloh said, built on lower manufacturing costs.

Evoloh also designed its electrolyser stack (the core of the system) around cheap, domestically produced materials and components. “We went to the power company and asked them about the cheapest, most accessible source of power. We did that with all the other components, pumps, heat exchangers, everything,” Rojas said.

To further reduce manufacturing costs, Evoloh uses roll-to-roll printing, a technology pioneered by printing presses centuries ago and more recently used in battery manufacturing. Electrodes and membranes are the two main components of an electrolyzer, and both can be manufactured using roll-to-roll equipment. When they come off the production line, they are cut to size and assembled into the final product.

The result, he said, is a compact, efficient electrolyser that is easy to transport and install. Rojas said the goal is to “be prepared for this situation, [electrolyzer] The stack can become a hardware commodity. “

Evoloh is still ironing out kinks in its manufacturing process, but Rojas expects the company’s first factory to be up and running by the end of next year. At full capacity, it will be able to produce 3.75 gigawatts of electrolysers using domestic materials, he said. This number is quite large considering that global manufacturing capacity will be only 11 GW in 2022, according to the IEA.

Evoloh recently raised an oversubscribed $20 million Series A round led by Engine Ventures, with participation from 3M Ventures and NextEra Energy. Rojas said the company will use the funds to improve its manufacturing process, deploy some large-scale pilots and sign up paying customers.

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