The Times, 14 September 2015, Robert Lea.
It’s all very Raymond Baxter, a Tomorrow’s World of driverless cars zooming around powered on hydrogen. The first part of that dream is the buzz of an automotive industry bringing together the next generation of sensors, onboard computers and pinpoint GPS. As for hydrogen — well, the future has arrived.
On Thursday a hydrogen refuelling station will open just off the M1, in Rotherham. It will mean that the first generation of hydrogen fuel-cell cars — the Toyota Mirai and Hyundai FCV ix35 — with ranges of 350 miles and more, the same as conventional petrol and diesel vehicles, can comfortably drive up from London, around the north and return home.
The M1 plant, barely the size of a couple of football pitch penalty boxes, also represents the future of hydrogen production. The South Yorkshire forecourt — you can spot it some way off because of its towering wind turbine — will be producing green hydrogen on site, taking power from the turbine or the grid, adding water, putting it through three stacks of electrolysis fuel cells and splitting the H from the O, the oxygen byproduct. The hydrogen is pushed into your car via high-pressure nozzle looking much like a petrol pump.
This is the brainchild of ITM Power, an AIM-listed, Sheffield-based company. Graham Cooley, its chief executive, calls is “a major turning point. This is the launch of a new fuel, one with no carbon molecules and located on the UK’s major highway.”
There are a few existing hydrogen fuel stations powered by industrial gases companies such as BOC and Air Products, sited mostly for bus and van hydrogen schemes. ITM is rolling out more publicly available refuelling stations: at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, west London; at the Rainham Centre of Engineering Excellence in east London; and at a garden centre at Denham on the M40 in Buckinghamshire. It has also signed up with Big Oil to put its unobtrusive hydrogen-making containers into three as-yet-unnamed Shell filling stations in the southeast.
Dr Cooley believes that the UK will have 65 hydrogen refuelling stations by 2020 and promises that when economies of scale arrive, the pump price will be significantly lower than petrol or diesel.
But he does have a beef with government, which “has not been a keen fuel cell supporter and needs to start putting its back behind it”.