An extra £23m of government funding has been awarded to the hydrogen transport sector in a bid to boost the adoption of hydrogen cars and the expansion of refuelling infrastructure.
The funding, announced on Saturday by the Department for Transport, will be made available as match funding to hydrogen fuel providers looking to build more refuelling stations and other associated infrastructure in partnership with car makers.
The competition will launch this summer, forming a key plank of government plans to cut carbon emissions from transport and improve air quality.
Hydrogen cars emit only water from the tailpipe, refuel in a matter of minutes, and can run for hundreds of miles on a single tank.
However, they currently boast a significant price premium – for example, the hydrogen-fuelled Toyota Mirai costs upwards of £60,000. Meanwhile, producing hydrogen is an energy-intensive process, which needs to be powered by green energy if operators are to maximise the carbon benefits from its use as a transport fuel.
“The transition to zero emission road transport is both inevitable and desirable as it will improve air quality in many of our towns and cities,” Transport Minister John Hayes said in a statement. “Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles can play a vital role alongside battery electric vehicles to help us cut harmful emissions.”
Currently there are only a handful of hydrogen refuelling stations in the UK, so a rapid increase in refuelling infrastructure will be needed to convince drivers to switch to hydrogen vehicles. Hayes acknowledged the challenge, and claimed the extra funding will help encourage investment in the fledgling sector.
“We know availability of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure can be a potential obstacle to the take up of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles,” he added. “That’s why we’re providing support to give interested parties the confidence to continue to invest in this new emerging technology to help us achieve our ambition for almost all new cars and vans to be zero emission by 2040.”
The news follows last month’s launch of Shell’s first hydrogen pump in the UK, installed on a motorway forecourt on the M25 near Cobham, Surrey. Two further stations will follow later this year from the oil giant.
The government is expected to make bolder action to curb emissions from road transport a centrepiece of its upcoming Emissions Reduction Plan, given various studies have shown slow progress in cutting transport emissions is one of the main reasons the UK is off track to meet its medium to long-term carbon targets.
In related clean transport news, last week Jaguar unveiled its first commercial electric vehicle – the I-PACE – which will be launched in 2018. It is based on the I-PACE concept, which was trailed by Jaguar last November and made its first appearance on the streets of London last week.
The five-seater car boasts “sports car performance and SUV space”, a range of 500km and fast charging capability, with 80 per cent charge achieved in 90 minutes. Pricing details have not been revealed.
Meanwhile, UK mining firm Mkango Resources today announced a new programme in collaboration with UK chemical research firm Metalysis Limited to research and develop components for rare earth magnets that are used in the production of electric vehicles.
The two companies said they are exploring the potential for the UK to become a host country for a new manufacturing plant for the magnets, which currently tend to be produced in China.
“It is a core part of Mkango’s strategy to be at the forefront of research and technology in every step of the rare earths supply chain; positioning the company as a future low cost, sustainable supplier of rare earths used in electric vehicles and other green technologies, which have entered a new phase of accelerating demand growth,” chief executive William Dawes said in a statement. “The R&D programme will seek to enhance marketing flexibility, increase future margins and affirm the company’s competitive positioning.”