Honda FCX Clarity and the UK’s first hydrogen car refuelling station in Swindon

The UK’s first open access hydrogen vehicle refuelling station has been officially opened at Honda’s manufacturing facility in Swindon. Built and operated by industrial gases company BOC, a member of The Linde Group, the venture is the result of a partnership between Honda, BOC and economic development company Forward Swindon. 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.

A hydrogen vehicle is a vehicle that uses hydrogen as its onboard fuel for motive power. Hydrogen vehicles include hydrogen fueled space rockets, as well as automobiles and other transportation vehicles. The power plants of such vehicles convert the chemical energy of hydrogen to mechanical energy either by burning hydrogen in an internal combustion engine, or by reacting hydrogen with oxygen in a fuel cell to run electric motors. Widespread use of hydrogen for fueling transportation is a key element of a proposed hydrogen economy.

Hydrogen fuel does not occur naturally on Earth and thus is not an energy source, but is an energy carrier. Currently it is most frequently made from methane or other fossil fuels. However, it can be produced from a wide range of sources (such as wind, solar, or nuclear) that are intermittent, too diffuse or too cumbersome to directly propel vehicles. Integrated wind-to-hydrogen plants, using electrolysis of water, are exploring technologies to deliver costs low enough, and quantities great enough, to compete with traditional energy sources.

Many companies are currently researching the feasibility of building hydrogen cars, and some automobile manufacturers have begun developing hydrogen cars (see list of fuel cell vehicles). Funding has come from both private and government sources. However, the Ford Motor Company has dropped its plans to develop hydrogen cars, stating that “The next major step in Ford’s plan is to increase over time the volume of electrified vehicles”. Similarly, French Renault-Nissan announced in 2009 that it is cancelling its hydrogen car R&D efforts. As of October 2009, General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson noted that GM had reduced its hydrogen program because the cost of building hydrogen cars was too high. “It’s still a ways away from commercialization”,

Honda introduced its first fuel cell vehicle in 1999 called the FCX and has since then introduced the second generation FCX Clarity. In 2007 at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show, Honda unveiled the first production model of the FCX Clarity. Limited marketing of the FCX Clarity began in June 2008 in the United States, and it was introduced in Japan in November 2008.[8] The FCX Clarity is available in the U.S. only in Los Angeles Area, where 16 hydrogen filling stations are available, and as of July 2009, ten drivers had leased the Clarity for US$600 a month.[9] Honda stated that it could start mass producing vehicles based on the FCX concept by the year 2020[9] and reaffirmed, in 2009, that it continues to put resources into hydrogen fuel cell development, which it saw as “a better long term bet than batteries and plug-in vehicles”.[10] In December 2010, however, it introduced a BEV version of the Honda Fit, using elements of its hydrogen engine design, stating that the “industry trend seems to be focused on the battery electric vehicle”.[11]

In 2011, Hyundai revealed its Blue2 (“Blue Square”) fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV), and stated that it plans to have FCEVs available for sale by 2014. In early 2009, Daimler announced plans to begin its FC vehicle production in 2009 with the aim of 100,000 vehicles in 2012–2013.In 2009, Nissan started testing a new FC vehicle in Japan. In September 2009, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Renault, Nissan and Toyota issued a joint statement about their undertaking to further develop and launch fuel-cell electric vehicles as early as 2015.

In February 2010 Lotus Cars announced that it was developing a fleet of hydrogen taxis in London. London’s deputy mayor, Kit Malthouse, said he hoped six filling stations would be available and that around 20 to 50 taxis would be in operation by the time of the 2012 Olympic Games, as well as 150 hydrogen-powered buses. In March 2010, General Motors said it had not abandoned fuel-cell technology and is still targeted to introduce hydrogen vehicles to retail customers by 2015.