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Hydrogen has huge advantages over other forms of vehicle propulsion. Unlike conventional fossil fuels, it produces no harmful emissions. There is no CO2, no particulates, just water vapour. Unlike battery electric vehicles (BEVs), hydrogen cars can be refuelled in minutes and the power-to-weight ratio is far superior.
The hydrogen transport industry is caught in a conundrum, though. Vehicle users (both commercial and private) will not want to buy hydrogen-powered vehicles while there is no network of refuelling stations to keep them running on the road. Without customer interest, motor manufacturers will not invest in production lines as well as the associated sales and marketing. On the other hand, the major fuel providers will not set up refuelling facilities if there are no vehicles to use them.
How to break this vicious circle?
To address this challenge, BOC entered into a partnership with motor manufacturer Honda and economic development company Forward Swindon. The goal was to create a refuelling solution that would meet the needs of today’s hydrogen vehicles while offering a model for further development of the infrastructure. The project was a first in that it was a publicprivate partnership and one that involved both an automotive OEM and an infrastructure provider.
The BOC station is situated on Honda’s manufacturing facility in Swindon. It is based on the latest technology already installed by BOC’s parent, The Linde Group, across the globe. Funding came from BOC and Honda, together with a significant sum from the South West Regional Development Agency, delivered and overseen by Forward Swindon.
The choice of Swindon had particular advantages. Within a couple of miles of the M4, midway between London and South Wales, the station is readily accessible from all parts of Britain. It also works as a hub connecting a number of smaller, experimental hydrogen refuelling stations across the country. It is situated on the Honda manufacturing site, although it will be open to anyone with a hydrogen-powered vehicle. Users have to register with BOC before using it though.
The business benefits
The station is the first dual 350/700 bar refuelling station in the UK. These are the two standard filling pressures adopted by automotive manufacturers for hydrogenpowered vehicles – from passenger cars, through commercial vans and trucks to buses. Filling is automatic, a sensor in the unit identifying the volume of gas required before the dispenser puts it into the tank.
The Swindon refuelling station looks just like a conventional forecourt and for customers the experience is similar. The refuelling time is similar to a comparable, fossil-fuel powered vehicle.
The design of the station and the technology employed, while new to the UK, has been in use at a number of other installations around the globe. Its throughput is in excess of 200kg per day, supplied from cylinders of compressed gas. This allows the unit to complete back-to-back refuelling of vehicles.
As a proven technical solution, the station at Swindon can be readily replicated virtually anywhere in the country.
The project partners – BOC, Honda and Forward Swindon – believe that by demonstrating just what is possible today, the zero-carbon transport systems of tomorrow come much closer to realisation.
“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.“
“The cooperation on this project between vehicle manufacturers like Honda, infrastructure providers like BOC and the public sector can be a blueprint for future needs.“
- First 350/700 bar hydrogen refuelling station in the UK
- Open-access to all hydrogen vehicle developers and users
- No exhaust emissions except water vapour
- Look and feel of a conventional forecourt, easy to operate
- Automatic billing
- Tested technology
- Solution can be readily replicated