While electric vehicles continue to grab much of the headlines when it comes to finding an alternative fuel solution, Honda is fighting back and flying the flag for hydrogen.
In fact, so committed is Honda to hydrogen that, in a partnership with BOC and Forward Swindon, it has opened the UK’s first open access hydrogen vehicle refuelling station at its manufacturing plant in Swindon.
Positioned halfway along the M4 corridor between London and Swansea, 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.
Many environmentalists eager to find a longterm, viable alternative fuel solution have championed hydrogen; I drove an early hydrogen-powered Honda in California in 2003.
The argument against hydrogen has always been the lack of infrastructure required to refuel the vehicles.
Now this statement by Honda and BOC 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.
As a fully operational, commercial-scale station using tested technology, it is a solution which 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 vehicles can be filled one after another without having to wait for more hydrogen to be generated.
“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,” Richard Kemp-Harper, lead technologist for transport and energy at the Technology Strategy Board, said.
“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.”
It’s a view supported by Thomas Brachmann, head of electrical powertrain R&D at Honda
“Hydrogen fuel cell technology is the ultimate transport solution,” Brachmann said. “Not only does it meet environmental demands but also delivers 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.”
Now all we need is the Government to put its money where its mouth is, and financially support the creation of the hydrogen refuelling network the country requires.