Johnson Matthey to build £80m fuel cell gigafactory

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Johnson Matthey (JM) is investing £80m into a UK gigafactory to scale up the manufacture of hydrogen fuel cell components.

FCEVs are an option for decarbonising heavy-duty commercial vehicles
FCEVs are an option for decarbonising heavy-duty commercial vehicles - AdobeStock

The gigafactory - supported by the UK government through the Automotive Transformation Fund (ATF) - will have an initial annual capability to manufacture 3GW of proton exchange membranes (PEM).

In a statement, Liam Condon, chief executive of Johnson Matthey said: “Decarbonising freight transportation is critical to help societies and industries meet their ambitious net zero emission targets – fuel cells will be a crucial part of the energy transition. For more than two decades, JM has been at the forefront of fuel cell innovation. The fuel cell market has now reached a pivotal moment with the increasing urgency to decarbonise transportation and today marks the next step of the journey to a low-carbon future in the UK.”

According to the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), the UK will need 14GW of fuel cell stack production and 400,000 high pressure carbon fibre tanks annually to meet local vehicle production demands by 2035.

Ian Constance, chief executive of the APC, said: “This is incredibly significant and puts the UK in an enviable position in the global fuel cell supply chain. Our insight forecasts that the UK could dominate European fuel cell production and be a centre of excellence globally and today’s announcement is a huge step towards realising that ambition.

“We already have 15 per cent of the fuel cell value chain radiating from UK businesses but this could be as much as 65 per cent just by expanding on current strengths in electrochemistry and coatings or using our automotive capability to volume manufacture components. Johnson Matthey, a world-leader in hydrogen technology, have seen this opportunity and I’m delighted they have chosen the UK to grow this capability.”

The site in Royston, Herts, is expected to be in operation by H1, 2024. Earlier this year, JM announced it is targeting over £200m sales in hydrogen technologies by end of 2024/25.

Commenting on JM’s announcement, Seiko Hidaka, a legal director at law firm Gowling WLG, said: “As we swelter in unprecedented high temperatures in the UK signalling a serious a threat to the climate, it would come of no surprise that decarbonisation technologies will become as important as semiconductors, wireless technology, electric vehicles and other emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence. Sustainable fuels such as hydrogen will clearly fall within key technologies, particularly projects which generate green hydrogen such this one, rather than blue or yellow hydrogens which do involve the use of carbon to produce the gas.”