The UK’s first public-access hydrogen refuelling station was host to seven fuel-cell cars on the 4th October, as they filled up at Swindon on the UK leg of the H2 Moves European Hydrogen Road Tour.

swindonThe station, operated by industrial gases and clean energy business BOC, is the only refuelling stop in the UK for the vehicles: they also made an initial fuelling stop on their way to Cardiff. Midway along the M4, the Swindon station was the obvious choice to make sure that the cars – two Hondas, two Mercedes, two Hyundai and one Toyota – had sufficient fuel for the whole of the journey.

The European Hydrogen Road Tour is part of a programme involving the European Commission and European industry stakeholders. The project aims to increase customer acceptance for fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and to prepare the market for hydrogen fuel cell technology and associated refuelling infrastructure.

Today’s event also provided guests with the opportunity to take a look ‘under the bonnet’, drive a fuel-cell vehicle and see for themselves the latest developments in automotive technology. Honda’s car manufacturing plant, where the refuelling station is located, hosted a seminar to promote the benefits of hydrogen as the most environmentally responsible fuel of the future, as well as generate interest and awareness of the need to develop a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure throughout the UK.

Speakers included Richard Kemp Harper, Lead Technologist for Energy and Transport at the Technology Strategy Board. The TSB has helped to fund the second phase of the Swindon project. Bill Fisher from Swindon Commercial Services Ltd, one of the local commercial customers piloting the use of hydrogen fuel in their fleet of vans, also spoke about the opportunities this zero-emission fuel offers.

The Swindon Hydrogen Refuelling Station is the result of a joint public-private partnership between Honda, economic development company Forward Swindon and BOC, a member of The Linde Group. Refuelling infrastructure is a key technology required to ‘complete the circle’ for hydrogen transport. The state-of-the-art facility shows what is available today. It can be replicated across the UK – and indeed the technology has already been installed by The Linde Group at over 80 locations around the world.

Nathan Palmer, BOC’s Director of Bulk and Packaged Gases, stressed the need to expand the refuelling infrastructure. “Businesses and individuals will not buy hydrogen vehicles unless they know there are enough places to fill up. Refuelling stations, like this one in Swindon, are vital if we are to switch over to a low-carbon transport system. The development of fuel-cell vehicles by the major manufacturers must be matched by investment in the infrastructure needed to service them.”

Thomas Brachmann of Honda R&D Europe remarked, “Honda believes fuel cell electric vehicles are a key mobility solution, providing a practical, environmentally-clean and near-silent answer to transport requirements. The European Hydrogen Road Tour offers a great opportunity to give the public, media and government officials a chance to experience and better understand this impressive zero emission technology for themselves.”

Ian Piper, CEO of Forward Swindon, noted: “Hydrogen transport offers significant environmental benefits to our towns and countryside. That is why Forward Swindon is delighted to be supporting this innovative green technology, and Swindon is proud to host this part of the Road Tour”.