SWINDON is to become the hydrogen centre of the UK, with vehicles powered by green gas becoming a regular feature of the transport scene in the area – especially with the expansion of BOC’s Hydrogen Refuelling Station at Honda .

On-site solar-powered electrolysis means the refuelling station can produce hydrogen more sustainably, with the resulting gas then used to fuel a number of different vehicle types using BOC’s filling technology.

The vehicles will include vans converted by Revolve Technologies, operated by Swindon Commercial Services Ltd and by Commercial Group, as well as fork lift trucks supplied by Briggs Equipment and operated by Honda.

The project also includes an innovative low-platinum fuel cell designed and built by ACAL Energy.

The public hydrogen refuelling station – the first to be opened in the UK – is the result of a collaboration led by clean energy business BOC alongside partners including Honda and economic development company Forward Swindon. The facility will be developed so vehicles can be fuelled with hydrogen made from renewable solar energy.

The two-and-a-half-year project will start later this year. It is part-funded by the Government’s Technology Strategy Board and will assess the potential for integrating the different technologies involved in hydrogen-powered transport, from solar power sources, through hydrogen storage, to the way in which the vehicles can be used and refuelled in day-to-day working.

Nick Rolf, BOC’s innovation manager for hydrogen systems, said: “This will be the UK’s first and longest demonstration of solar hydrogen production linked to transport and materials handling applications – the two early commercial markets for hydrogen.

“The partners will be able to use this project as a shop window to attract customers in the region and beyond.”

Mike Godfrey, chief engineer at Honda said: “If the low carbon economy is really to deliver a sustainable economy by 2020 and beyond, then it has to operate at a local level.

“This project will show how green technology can be deployed here in Swindon and make a difference to the area.”

Simon Graham at Commercial Group said: “The initial pilot of hydrogen vans for our deliveries in Wiltshire in January was successful.

“Swindon has a reputation for innovation and it is apt that it will host this project, watched by companies across the world, to see how green hydrogen can become a reality for business.”

Bill Fisher of Swindon Commercial Services Ltd said: “SCS is an environmentally conscious brand. We will be trialling the use of hydrogen fuel to run our vehicle fleet as it operates around Swindon.”

Next month there will be a European hydrogen road tour, which starts in Cardiff and finishes in London, with stops at Bristol and then at Honda in Swindon.