Swindon has put itself firmly on the international map for low-carbon automotive technology with its pioneering hydrogen re-fuelling station and a pilot scheme which will put hydrogen-powered commercial vehicles on its roads.
This message was delivered to leading experts in hydrogen fuels at a seminar at Honda’s Swindon car plant that coincided with a refuelling visit by a fleet of hydrogen-fuelled cars as part of a showpiece European tour.
Swindon has the UK’s only public-access hydrogen refuelling station – a fact that Ian Piper, chief executive of Forward Swindon, the town’s economic regeneration company, told the gathering was evidence of its attitude to low-carbon innovation.
Norwegian capital Oslo alone has four hydrogen stations and Germany has plans for 50 by 2015.
“We see this as an opportunity to build something unique in Swindon,” Mr Piper told the seminar.
“What is so important is that it is putting Swindon on the map nationally and internationally. The town has a strong heritage for industrial innovation and a history of utilising these innovations.”
The next phase is to get hydrogen-fuelled vehicles on the road – which is where Swindon Commercial Services’ (SCS) pilot scheme will be so valuable, he said.
Under the scheme, co-funded by the Swindon-based Technology Strategy Board (TSB), SCS will operate five new dual-fuel (diesel and hydrogen) vans on short journeys around the town such as call outs to minor housing repairs.
The vans, which will be branded to raise public awareness of the trial, will be monitored by TSB experts on issues such as fuel economy and performance.
SCS managing director Bill Fisher said: “With the hydrogen refuelling station on our doorstep at Honda it is a great opportunity for us to take a lead in using hydrogen-fuelled vehicles.
“The business case to us looks good and we believe it will be a worthwhile experiment.”
The seven hydrogen-powered cars taking part in the H2 Moves cross-Europe tour – two Honda Clarities, two Hyundai ix35s, two Mercedes B Class F-Cells and a Toyota FCV Advanced – drove around 1,500km to demonstrate the practicality of the technology.
Despite visiting four UK towns and cities – London, Cardiff, Bristol and Swindon – among the total of nine across Europe, Swindon was the only stopover where they could refuel.
The hydrogen refuelling plant at Honda – which it is hoped will be just one of a number on a future UK ‘hydrogen highway’ – is now producing the fuel using on-site solar panels. So further reducing carbon. The ‘gas’ station is operated by industrial gases group BOC.
Watch a video of the H2 Moves tour refilling in Swindon here . .