The UK’s first public hydrogen-vehicle refuelling station opened today at Honda’s manufacturing plant in Swindon.
The facility is designed to look and work like a conventional petrol station and provide similar refuelling times, delivering hydrogen from pre-filled cylinders so that vehicles can fill up one after the other.
Built and run by industrial gases company BOC (part of The Linde Group) with backing from Honda and Forward Swindon, the station is intended to offer a strategic link halfway along the M4 between London and Swansea.
The partners also hope to address the belief held by many in the industry that consumers won’t buy hydrogen vehicles without an established refuelling network but fuel companies won’t build new facilities while there are no hydrogen cars are on the road.
Commenting on the new refuelling station, BOC UK managing director Mike Huggon said: ‘It demonstrates that we can build the infrastructure needed to establish a hydrogen-powered transport system.
‘But even with private and public support — as we have here in Swindon — we need government commitment to make this work across the country as a whole.
‘We can provide the tools but the government has to create the policy framework in which we can build the low-carbon infrastructure of tomorrow.’
Most major car manufacturers are developing hydrogen-vehicle technology, which is favoured for its lack of tailpipe emissions and longer range than that of existing battery-electric vehicles.
However, most industrial hydrogen is currently produced through the steam reformation of fossil fuels, which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
‘We are looking to more renewable technologies in the long term because that’s what customers want,’ BOC spokesman Simon Napper told The Engineer.
‘The issue at the moment is getting renewable production facilities up to commercial scale. There are only a few plants around the world that deliver at commercial quantities.
‘Linde has opened a commercial-scale plant in Leuna, Germany, based on electrolysis and one in Canada that works on hydro-electric power.’