Eco Innovation

UK invests £7mn into first hydrogen transport hub

6th February 2024
Kristian McCann

The UK Government has launched a £7 million investment into the hydrogen vehicle infrastructure of Tees Valley, marking a significant step towards green transportation. This funding is earmarked for several hydrogen projects, including the development of new refuelling stations essential for fuel cell vehicles.

A notable beneficiary, Exolum, is set to establish a publicly accessible green hydrogen refuelling station near Middlesbrough. This facility is expected to fuel at least 25 new zero-emission heavy goods vehicles, highlighting the government's push towards reducing the transport sector's carbon footprint as part of broader net zero efforts.

Anthony Browne, Technology and Decarbonisation Minister, expressed his enthusiasm: "It’s fantastic to see the Tees Valley continue to be a trailblazer in this vital technology to decarbonise heavier vehicles – leading the way for the wider rollout of green hydrogen."

This initiative introduces the UK's first hydrogen transport hub, utilising environmentally friendly green hydrogen over the much maligned 'blue hydrogen’, which the recently approved hydrogen plant in Cheshire is pegged to use.

Browne added, "These three winning projects will not only support jobs and economic growth in the Tees Valley but will also help decarbonise our transport network."

Additional hydrogen projects include the development of hydrogen-powered ground support vehicles at airports and the creation of new hydrogen refuelling stations. The first government competition dedicated to this cause has allocated over £2.6 million towards deploying 21 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The second competition sought innovative ideas to boost the adoption of hydrogen-fuelled vans and HGVs in Tees Valley.

Hydrogen as a viable alternative to conventional fuels hasn't been straightforward. In the early 2000s, hydrogen-powered vehicles were seen as direct competitors to battery EVs. Yet growth in companies like Tesla, shifted the focus away from hydrogen, primarily due to the cost-effectiveness and existing infrastructure favouring EVs. Yet hydrogen vehicles’ ability to offer faster refuelling times and longer driving ranges, coupled with advancements in hydrogen production and refuelling infrastructure, are steering governments to see the place it can play in net zero strategies.

Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, praised the region's pioneering role in the country’s hydrogen development: "Our area is leading the way in developing the cleaner, healthier and safer transport of the future."

Houchen also stressed the importance of skill development within the local workforce to leverage the job opportunities arising from new technological advancements. The December 2023 Hydrogen Strategy Delivery Update revealed the UK has about 265 hydrogen vehicles on its roads and eight publicly accessible hydrogen refuelling stations, with plans for more, supported by government and private funding.

Lord Callanan, Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance, highlighted the UK's ambition in green hydrogen production, with a commitment of £2 billion for 11 projects. He noted, "The UK was building a ‘world-leading hydrogen industry’."

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