New Hydrogen Fuel Station
Posted on September 25, 2015
The ‘chicken and egg’ debate is common when discussing hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), what does come first: the refuelling infrastructure or fuel cell vehicles? Last week Intelligent Energy attended the opening of the first public hydrogen fuel station close to the M1. Owned and operated by ITM Power, the station produces its own hydrogen on-site via a wind turbine – and is a sign that both ‘chicken’ and ‘egg’ are developing together, and with good pace.
The new Hydrogen fuel station is located on The Advanced Manufacturing Park just two miles from the M1 motorway network in South Yorkshire and within reach of the large population centres of Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster. As part of an Innovate UK sponsored “Hydrogen Island” project over the next year, the station with FCEVs will be trialled by local businesses (where as part of the leasing deal they will be able to refuel at the station without charge).
ITM Power has a portfolio of 11 refuelling stations and is planning to add more in the near future, 3 stations are to be located in London on existing retail forecourts further to a strategic siting agreement the company signed with Shell The UK H2 Mobility Project, of which both ITM Power and Intelligent Energy are members, planned for 65 stations nationwide by 2020 and 1,150 stations by 2030. If we look at conventional fuelling stations and the number of cars they currently service, it suggests that by 2030 the UK will be able to support more than 4.7 million fuel cell vehicles.
So that’s the chicken, what about the egg?
The development of this new hydrogen refuelling station was supported by three major vehicle manufacturers; Toyota, Hyundai and Honda. This in itself is a good sign that the times are changing. So why are the vehicle manufacturers so interested now? Hyundai has been developing fuel cell technologies for more than 17 years and Toyota – which has sold more than eight million hybrid vehicles worldwide - for almost 20, so they have been believers in hydrogen as the future in mobility for a long time. During the official opening of the station, the manufacturers hinted at a recent shift in customer perception that they see as making FCEVs commercially viable in the mainstream - Hyundai for example is increasing the production of its hydrogen fuelled ix35 to meet sales forecasts. This change of attitude is supported by projections by the UK H2 Mobility project that suggests consumer demand will outgrow vehicle manufacturers’ expectations in 2018.
So whats next?
With the addition of this new hydrogen station in Sheffield it is now feasible to drive from London to Edinburgh in a fuel cell vehicle with just one three minute ‘pit-stop’ on the way. If you were to undertake the same journey in a Nissan Leaf, for example, you would have to stop three times on the way and spend in excess of one and a half hours charging the vehicle using rapid chargers*.
This illustrates why the vehicle manufacturers have chosen not only to progress their hydrogen fuel cell vehicle deployment but also be there in force on the day of the opening. With all the benefits of a plug-in electric vehicle – including instant torque and zero emissions – and a conventional internal combustion-engine vehicle (long range, quick refuelling) without the combined downsides (limited range, lengthy charge times and emissions), FCEVs offer the best of both worlds. The opening of ITM Power’s new hydrogen fuel station, with the support of OEMs, is a significant step towards their wider adoption. Don’t forget that at the beginning of the 19th century a similar ‘chicken and egg’ debate was taking place around fossil fuelled vehicles - and look how that has turned out.
All other figures were taken from the presentations on the day