Honda, BOC and fellow project partners including the Technology Strategy Board are today launching the UK’s first commercial scale, solar-powered, multi-application hydrogen facility in Swindon.

Located at Honda’s UK Manufacturing facility in South Marston, Swindon, the official opening ceremony celebrated a number of significant firsts and built upon the unveiling of the first open access hydrogen vehicle refuelling station at the same site in September 2011.

The newly enhanced facility can now produce commercial volumes of ‘green’ hydrogen at the point-of-use from solar-powered electrolysis.

It will be refuelling the first hybrid vans running on sustainable biodiesel and hydrogen in commercial operation. As a further first, Honda will now be operating hydrogen fuel cell-powered forklift trucks on a permanent basis around the site.

The launch of the station is seen as the next innovation in the transition to a hydrogen economy, an example of cross-industry cooperation towards a cleaner transport future. gasworld attended the event and listened as Nathan Palmer, Director of Merchant and Packaged Gases at BOC, explained, “BOC in the UK has been a source and a proving ground for a lot of the low-carbon clean energy technologies, with transport one of the clear main areas of focus.”

“The use of hydrogen and LNG as vehicle fuels is fundamental to our growth strategy and in the last few years, with our parent company Linde, we have invested – and will commit to invest – over £250m worth of capital in the UK in the pursuit of low-carbon technologies and transport initiatives. This of course included the UK’s first public access 350 and 700 bar hydrogen fuelling facility here in Swindon, which was opened in 2011.”

“Latterly, it includes the UK’s largest combined hydrogen production and refuelling station in Aberdeen, to refuel 10 hydrogen fuel cell buses that will run in northeast Scotland. And it also includes the building of Europe’s largest back-to-base LNG refuelling station in partnership with DHL in Yorkshire.”

“But turning our attention to this project,” he continued, “the hydrogen fuelling station that we deployed here in 2011 set the standard for others to follow – and indeed they have. There are now many stations adapted and built to offer combined 350 and 700 bar refuelling capability. We believe, fundamentally, that what we are talking to you about and what you will see today here at Honda now takes another major leap forward and further enhances the reputation of Honda, all of the partners, and the pioneers in this project and the promotion of hydrogen.”

“We believe, fundamentally, that what we are talking to you about and what you will see today here at Honda now takes another major leap forward and further enhances the reputation of Honda, all of the partners, and the pioneers in this project and the promotion of hydrogen”

Nathan Palmer, BOC

“It delivers a number of very specific firsts for the UK: the commercial-scale onsite production of ‘green’ hydrogen from solar power; the permanent deployment of two hydrogen-powered forklift trucks refuelled by an indoor hydrogen dispenser; the fuel cell-powered education centre located next to the refuelling station; and the operation of the largest regional fleet of hydrogen-powered transit vans. No other facility in the UK has developed such a fully integrated hydrogen system.”

Partners in the project include Honda, BOC (a member of The Linde Group), Commercial Group, Fuel Cell Systems, Evolve, Swindon Borough Council, and Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board).

According to Palmer, it is this diverse and willing ensemble that brought the station to fruition. He added, “BOC are rightly proud to be involved with this, and in terms of leading this exciting, ground-breaking project. But it would not have happened if it wasn’t for the enthusiasm, the commitment and the vision of a number of key partners.”

It is hoped, gasworld understands, that this project will validate the versatility and the techno-economic case for using hydrogen in a number of key areas; as a transport fuel for light goods vehicles, the dimension for potential productivity enhancements in material handling, and as a viable off-grid power solution for buildings. The project also aims to gain valuable learning on the role that electrolysers can play in manufacturing the hydrogen – and matching renewable onsite hydrogen production with the demand of real consumers in real world applications.

The launch event included a number of keynote speakers and technology demonstrations, with Honda’s Jason Smith, Director of Administration, Finance, Purchasing and Quality, BOC’s Nick Rolf, and Kate Warren from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) among those providing briefings.

Warren enthused, “The UK Government has a vision of the UK at the forefront of the design, development, manufacture and use of ultra-low emission vehicles. There are a number of opportunities that the transition from the current landscape to ultra-low emission vehicles can deliver for the UK.”

“The UK has an extremely strong automotive sector, of which this Honda plant is clearly an excellent example. And the UK’s automotive sector strategy recognises that the need to move to ultra-low emission vehicles is a once in a lifetime opportunity to build on the strengths of that automotive sector…”

Media and visitors alike were also given the option of a short test drive of the hydrogen-powered Honda FCX Clarity vehicle, which the company aims to roll-out in the US and Japan next year (2015) and launch in Europe in 2016.


The project by numbers

  • 7 project partners
  • 1 pressurised alkaline water electrolyser
  • 7 hydrogen-powered vans
  • 2 hydrogen fuel cell-powered fork lifts
  • 1 indoor hydrogen dispenser for fuel cell forklift
  • Dispensing at 350 bar and 700 bar
  • 900b compression
  • 20 tonnes of hydrogen produced annually
  • 10 tonnes of hydrogen anticipated to be dispensed annually
  • 1 hydrogen fuel cell-powered education centre
  • £3.1m total project budget