Sheffield is to become the first place in the UK with a commercial refuelling station for eco-friendly hydrogen powered cars and vans.
The breakthrough in green vehicle technology comes after the Government named city-based energy storage and clean fuel company ITM Power as the preferred developer and operator of a hydrogen mini-grid, based at the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Catcliffe.
The grid was originally built five years ago and intended to use spare power from a 225kW wind turbine that generates electricity for incubator units, occupied by hi-tech start-ups.
However, when it was built, the mini-grid could only cope with a fraction of the power generated by the wind turbine and it became easier to feed the electricity to the national power network when it wasn’t being used by the units.
As a result, the mini-grid remained dormant, but ITM plans to change that.
The Brightside Lane company plans to replace an outdated, low capacity Italian-made electrolyser with its own, modern technology, which will be able to use all the electricity the wind turbine generates to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
ITM’s system has the capacity to use electricity generated by other wind turbines, built more recently in the area, which might otherwise have to be “parked” and paid not to generate power if there was no demand from the national power grid when the wind is blowing.
Hydrogen produced on the site can be stored and then converted back into electricity for the incubator units when the wind isn’t blowing or used to refuel hydrogen powered cars and vans, using an existing refuelling facility on the AMP site
ITM plans to upgrade that facility, doubling the pressure it operates at to 700 times atmospheric pressure – now the standard pressure for refuelling vehicles.
Talks are already underway to find public and private sector organisations in the region that might be willing to run a fleet of hydrogen powered vehicles and use the AMP refuelling technology.
But plans drawn up by ITM and the Government are even more ambitious than that.
The AMP refuelling station is set to become the first in a network of stations close to the M1, developed as part of the UK H2 Mobility initiative, to refuel passing, hydrogen powered traffic.
Manufacturers, led by Hyundai, have already developed electric cars that generate power using hydrogen fuel cells and new hydrogen fuel price data released by ITM has boosted their prospects.
Shortly before the mini-grid announcement, ITM revealed that its latest developments had slashed hydrogen costs by almost 23 per cent to £2.69 per kilogramme of hydrogen, significantly undercutting the £4.40 target price that the European Union has set for 2025.
Under the current tax regime, that means that hydrogen is not only greener, but is also cheaper than petrol, too.