Swindon’s place as lead town on UK hydrogen highway boosted as ‘green’ fuel production starts

October 31, 2014

Swindon has strengthened its standing as a leading centre for innovation in low-emission motoring by officially opening the UK’s first refuelling station that produces ‘green’ hydrogen on site.

The new state-of-the-art facility at car giant Honda’s manufacturing plant at South Marston will produce hydrogen from solar power by electrolysis for use in hydrogen commercial and domestic vehicles.

The new technology, which has been designed by a consortium that includes Honda and industrial gases giant BOC, has been integrated into the existing hydrogen refuelling station at the plant which opened in September 2011 to much fanfare and put Swindon firmly on the ‘hydrogen highway’.

Hydrogen is widely seen as a fuel of the future, possibly replacing fossil-based fuels, as it is a low-carbon energy source that offers energy security, employment opportunities and economic growth.

The station will employ BOC’s hydrogen filling technology to fuel the world’s first hybrid Ford Transit vans running on sustainable biodiesel and hydrogen, the UK’s first hydrogen powered fork-lift trucks and a hydrogen fuel cell-powered education centre on the site.

The consortium hopes it will be a benchmark for other refuelling stations to follow as well as reinforce the UK’s attractiveness as a location for major car manufacturers to roll out fuel cell vehicles and encourage the growth of a national refuelling infrastructure.

Members of the consortium – made up of Commercial Group, Swindon Borough Council, Fuel Cell Systems, Briggs Equipment and Revolve as well as BOC and Honda – worked together to secure funding from the Swindon-based Technology Strategy Board (now the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK) and to design and commission the facility, highlighting the UK’s leadership in environmental technologies using hydrogen.

BOC director of bulk and packaged gases Nathan Palmer told yesterday’s official launch: “This investment is proof of BOC’s long-term strategy to deliver economically viable and sustainable technology solutions for our customers and society. We are extremely proud to be part of this ground-breaking programme.”

BOC innovation manager – hydrogen systems Nick Rolf added: “This enhancement to our refuelling station clearly positions this facility as the best in class in the UK. No other facility in the UK has the capacity to refuel vehicles with ‘green’ high purity hydrogen on a commercial scale and this now cements Swindon’s position as the key location for fuel cell vehicle introduction.”

Ian Larrard, director of the Initiative in Swindon & Wiltshire, part of Business West, said the official opening marked a significant moment for Swindon and placed the town at the forefront of the UK’s drive to be a global leader in ultra-low emission vehicles.

“This latest development uses cutting-edge technology to actually generate hydrogen at Honda, after it became the first refuelling site in the UK three years ago,” he said. “The Swindon Initiative has supported the low carbon/hydrogen working group and we believe that this latest phase gives local firms another reason to remain buoyant after a year of stellar growth.

“In September 2011 Swindon, BOC and Honda established the UK's first commercially available hydrogen refuelling station open to all users, importing bottled gas and distributing it at the site. This was a landmark in the UK’s commitment to green modes of travel and the latest phase of hydrogen production independently at the site is yet another step in the right direction towards the wide scale use of this fuel source.

“This enhances the reputation of Swindon and in the future we can be proud to say that we led the drive towards this sustainable form of travel.

“Interesting to note that the arrival of hydrogen cars on UK roads took another major step forward this month when business minister Matthew Hancock announced up to £11m of funding. We all recognise that high growth must be accompanied by high quality infrastructure and the expansion of hydrogen facilities provides the potential to decarbonise road transport.

“This will create new growth opportunities, diversify the national energy supply, and drastically reduce the environmental impact of vehicles. In BMW and Honda, Swindon has two of the world’s finest car manufacturers and this latest phase shows how Swindon is leading the way in low-emission vehicles as the landscape changes.”

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