In the past few years, Shell Oil has become something of an environmental bogeyman due to its continued attempts to drill for oil in the Arctic, long after other oil companies have agreed to keep the frigid wilderness off-limits to drilling platforms.
As such, it isn’t the first company we’d expect most people to think of when discussing zero emission, environmentally-responsible, low-carbon transportation.
But earlier today, UK company ITM announced a brand-new deal with the multi-million dollar fossil fuel company to site hydrogen refueling stations at three Shell filling stations in London. The goal? To dramatically increase the number of hydrogen filling stations in the Greater London area while simultaneously accelerating the adoption of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Depending on your personal take on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, this will either improve or worsen the reputation of Shell in your mind. We’ll leave you to decide which it is.
Earlier this year, ITM was awarded £1.89m ($2.91 million) by the UK Government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles to design and build hydrogen refueling stations at two different locations in London. Using technology developed in-house, ITM’s hydrogen refueling stations incorporate a proprietary PEM HGas electrolyser which can use excess electrical energy from the local utility grid to turn water into hydrogen and oxygen, storing the hydrogen for use in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
The system also includes on-site compressed hydrogen storage, making it possible for the stations to generate hydrogen fuel during off-peak periods while also ensuring there is enough hydrogen for refueling customer’s cars during peak demand periods.
“This agreement and the OLEV funding for these new refueling stations in the South East is an important step in developing hydrogen mobility in the UK. These HRS deployments will be the first to be fully integrated on fuel forecourts,” said ITM CEO Graham Cooley.
In addition to receiving £1.89 million from OLEV to develop two hydrogen refelling stations, ITM was also the recipient earlier this year of a £1.7 million ($2.63 million) grant from the FCH JU (Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking), a European-wide public private partnership charged with encouraging the adoption of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
It is not clear at the time of writing if Shell is offering any of its own investment to build the three new hydrogen filling stations, or indeed if it intends to extend the partnership in the future to offer hydrogen refelling infrastructure at other Shell-brand filling stations.
Without expanding hydrogen refueling infrastructure beyond the bounds of Greater London however, it’s unlikely that the average consumer will make the switch to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. At the time of writing, less than hydrogen filling stations exist in the whole of the UK, with the majority located on privately-owned sites.
Then again, with only a handful of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles currently in the UK — namely a limited-number of Hyundai iX35 fuel cell SUVs, just two or three Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and a collection of hydrogen fuel cell busses, taxi cabs and hydrogen combustion vehicles — demand for hydrogen filling stations isn’t exactly large at the time of writing.
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