The UK’s first open access hydrogen vehicle refuelling station has been officially opened at Honda’s manufacturing facility in Swindon. Built and operated by industrial gases company BOC, a member of The Linde Group, the venture is the result of a partnership between Honda, BOC and economic development company Forward Swindon.
The new station is open to anyone developing or using hydrogen-powered vehicles. It can fill vehicles at both 350 bar and 700 bar, the two standard filling pressures adopted by the world’s major vehicle manufacturers.
Based in the grounds of Honda of the UK Manufacturing in Swindon, the station aims to encourage the development of both hydrogen-powered vehicles – such as the Honda FCX Clarity fuel cell car – and the refuelling infrastructure to support them. It also creates a strategic link half way along the M4 between London and Swansea. As a fully operational, commercial-scale station using tested technology, it is a solution that can be replicated across the country and so create the essential network necessary for the widespread uptake of hydrogen-powered transport.
Among the many innovations of the new station is that it can fill vehicles ‘back-to-back’ from a bank of hydrogen cylinders. This means that vehicles can be filled one after another without having to wait for more hydrogen to be generated. Another feature is the design: it looks just like a conventional filling station and the time to fill a vehicle is comparable with conventional fuels. The Honda FCX Clarity, for example, takes less than five minutes.
For the consumer, then, the experience should be very similar to refuelling at a normal petrol station. Speaking at the opening of the facility, Richard Kemp-Harper, Lead Technologist for Transport and Energy at the Technology Strategy Board, said: “The change from conventional transport systems to sustainable, low carbon alternatives is one that can only be made through businesses and government working in partnership to develop innovative solutions. This new refuelling station gives a real glimpse of the role hydrogen can play in practice. It is a great example of the kind of collaboration and innovation we need.”
Mike Huggon, Managing Director of BOC in the UK and Ireland, said: “This is the first commercial-scale, open-access station in the UK. 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.”
Ian Piper, Chief Executive of economic development company Forward Swindon, said: “I’m proud that we have been involved in such an exciting public-private partnership. Forward Swindon was the initiator of this project and brought together the funding: it’s a great example of how innovative projects can come to life in the UK, even in a recession. Swindon’s strategic location makes it the natural home for new transport technologies, and I’m confident this facility will encourage a growing interest and take up.”
Thomas Brachmann, Head of Electrical Powertrain R&D at Honda, commented: “Hydrogen fuel cell technology is the ultimate transport solution; meeting environmental demands but also delivering the range and performance that customers expect. The cooperation on this project between vehicle manufacturers like Honda, infrastructure providers like BOC and the public sector can be a blueprint for future development.”
Bottom three pictures by Richard Wintle of Calyx