UK plans $95m hydrogen gigafactory

A sign for a hydrogen pump at a train refueling station in Germany. Hydrogen has a diverse range of applications and can be used in a number of industries.

Krisztian Bocsi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A UK-based company said on Monday it was building an £80 million ($95.9 million) ‘gigafactory’ specializing in the manufacture of hydrogen fuel cell components, with operations set to begin in the first half of 2024.

In a statement, London-listed Johnson Matthey said the facility in Royston, England, would be capable of producing 3 gigawatts of proton exchange membrane fuel cell components per year. Also known as polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells, the US government says PEM fuel cells in automobiles “use hydrogen and oxygen from the air to generate electricity.” PEM fuel cells are made from a number of different materials.

The idea is that the components will be used by hydrogen vehicles, with the announcement referring to road freight. Earlier reports of JM’s plans for a hydrogen gigafactory were published by The Sunday Times in November 2021.

Johnson Matthey’s plans received support from the UK government through the Advanced Propulsion Centre’s Automotive Transformation Fund, a funding scheme focused on large-scale industrialisation.

The idea behind fuel cell vehicles is that hydrogen from a tank mixes with oxygen, producing electricity. According to the US Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, fuel cell vehicles emit “only water vapor and hot air.”

In its own announcement on Monday, the Advanced Propulsion Center said it expected UK fuel cell demand to be around 10GW by 2030, rising to 14GW by 2035. he added, would be “equivalent to 140,000 vehicles”. .”

The APC said the fuel cell vehicles were “as fast to refuel as a standard combustion engine and have a range and power density to rival diesel engines.” This made them “perfect for heavy-duty applications” such as heavy-duty or heavy-duty.

“Decarbonizing freight transport is essential to help societies and industries achieve their ambitious net-zero emissions goals – fuel cells will be a crucial part of the energy transition,” said Liam Condon, CEO of Johnson Matthey. .

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JM is one of many companies working on technology related to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. At the end of June, Tevva, another UK-based company, launched a hydrogen-electric heavy-duty truck.

In the same month, Volvo Trucks announced that it had started testing vehicles using “hydrogen-powered fuel cells”, with the Swedish company claiming that their range could extend up to 1,000 kilometres, a just over 621 miles.

While some are excited about the potential of fuel cell vehicles in the coming years, their current market share remains small compared to battery electric vehicles.

According to the International Energy Agency’s Global Electric Vehicle Outlook 2022 report, the global fleet of fuel cell electric vehicles stood at around 51,600 in 2021.

The IEA reports that sales of electric vehicles – that is, sales of battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids – reached 6.6 million in 2021. In the first quarter of 2022, sales of electric vehicles increased amounted to 2 million, an increase of 75% compared to the first three. month of 2021.

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