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First hydrogen refuelling station on a forecourt in the UK


Electrolytic Hydrogen is the cleanest and lowest cost renewable fuel available for fuel cell electric vehicles, so it clearly has the potential to become a clean and versatile transport fuel for the future.

The first hydrogen refuelling station situated on a forecourt in the UK has just opened off London’s M25.

Following the launch of the first UK public access hydrogen refuelling station in September 2015 at the Advanced Manufacturing Park, just off the M1, Junction 33 in South Yorkshire,
the first hydrogen refuelling station situated on a forecourt in the UK has just opened at Cobham service station on the M25. 150,000 vehicles that travel on the M25 on a daily basis, and this new service will provide customers with hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles the ability to refuel simply and quickly, at one of the largest petrol stations in the UK.

As in the Yorkshire site, the new hydrogen station is also supplied by ITM Power and is the first fully branded and public hydrogen refuelling site in the UK. It is the first of three hydrogen stations Shell plans to open in the UK in 2017.

The opening of Shell’s first UK hydrogen site follows the success of sites in California, and in Germany where Shell is part of a joint venture with the ambition to open a network of up to 400 hydrogen sites by 2023. Shell is in the process of assessing the potential of future projects in the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Austria, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Shell does not retail petrol or auto diesel in Ireland, having sold its sites to Topaz.

I think Toyota, Honda and Hyundai (which are all distributor operations in Ireland, as opposed to manufacturer owned) should possibly through the SIMI and supported by the Irish Government, be engaging with the UK’s ITM Power and some forecourt operators here on the future supply of electrolytic hydrogen to motorists. The relevant groups in Northern Ireland should also be making sure it is included in future ITM Power plans to expand hydrogen refuelling stations.

In addition, Shell is a founding member of the Hydrogen Council, announced at Davos in January 2017, comprising energy companies, OEMs and technology partners with a collective pledge to accelerate investment in the development and commercialisation of the hydrogen and fuel cell sectors.

Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles convert hydrogen into electricity and produce only heat and water when driven. They offer an alternative to the conventional internal combustion engine, a driving experience similar to electric cars, and no local emissions. Hydrogen vehicles can drive up to 700 kilometers without refuelling and can be refuelled in a few minutes at a standard forecourt with a hydrogen pump.

The hydrogen is generated on-site using an electrolyser which requires only water and electricity to generate the hydrogen gas. The hydrogen station at Cobham is the third hydrogen site in the UK to be supplied by ITM Power and opened as part of the HyFive project. The initiative has been partially funded by the European Fuel Cell, Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, and the UKs Office of Low Emission Vehicles.

Among those offering hydrogen fuel models in the UK are Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, and British Microcabs. On the latest opening, Paul Van der Burgh, Toyota (GB) President and Managing Director, said: “The opening of Shell’s first forecourt hydrogen refuelling station at Cobham, the seventh hydrogen station in the country, is the result of collaboration, cooperation and determination from government and industry leaders to bring the benefits of sustainable ultra-low emission transport to the UK. At Toyota, we are committed to playing a leading role in environmental and technological advances in the automotive industry, and this new station will help us to introduce more customers to the benefits of our fuel cell vehicles, including our Mirai hydrogen fuel cell car. We would like to congratulate the team involved on this significant new project.”

Thomas Brachmann, automobile powertrain and material research expert at Honda R&D Europe (Deutschland) GmbH, said: “The opening of the hydrogen refuelling station at Shell Cobham is a major milestone for the HyFIVE project and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure in the UK. To have a hydrogen refuelling station at a major service station by one of the busiest motorways in Europe will provide further convenience to drivers of hydrogen fuel cell cars, such as the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell.”

Matthew Tipper, Vice President, Future Fuels at Shell said: “Hydrogen has the potential to become a clean and versatile transport fuel for the future, and the Cobham hydrogen site is one of the ways Shell is encouraging the use of alternative fuels to contribute to the energy transition. This will provide customers with hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles the ability to refuel simply and quickly, at one of the largest petrol stations in the UK.”

And Sinead Lynch, Shell’s UK Country Chair, commented: “We believe the journey to a low-carbon economy requires a coordinated and collaborative approach among organisations in the transport sector, including providers of energy and transport vehicles, users of transport vehicles, local authorities as well as government. The Cobham retail site is a small but significant first step toward developing infrastructure needed for increased usage of hydrogen vehicles.”

The last word to Dr. Graham Cooley, CEO of ITM Power, who said: “ITM Power is pleased to partner with Shell to bring their first forecourt hydrogen refuelling site to life. Electrolytic hydrogen is the cleanest, and lowest cost, renewable fuel available for fuel cell electric vehicles. We look forward to working with Shell to introduce additional hydrogen stations on their forecourts in the UK in the near future.”

Hydrogen as a transport fuel
Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are one of the technological innovations that help reduce emissions and address air pollution while offering convenience for motorists.
FCEVs are powered by electricity and only produce water vapour, helping to improve local air quality. And FCEVs do not produce CO2, or other harmful emissions from their tailpipe.
Hydrogen technology has potential to store energy easily. Energy is stored in compressed hydrogen fuel, rather than in a battery.
 Hydrogen mobility is a ‘chicken and egg’ situation. FCEVs will only be bought by customers if there is a refuelling infrastructure. Establishing and maintaining investment in fuelling infrastructure is only commercially attractive and sustainable if there are enough FCEV customers.
In the longer term, hydrogen in transport can help reduce well-to-wheel CO2 emissions from the transport sector if the electricity that creates the hydrogen is generated by renewable technologies such as wind or solar.