A “fresh test drive” in Cardiff and an early meeting of fuel cell vehicles on road and river in Bristol
The “UK leg” of the H2moves Scandinavia European Hydrogen Road Tour kicked off in Cardiff, the capital of Wales on the 3rd of October. Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales greeted the congregation with a hearty welcome after he had thoroughly inspected the seven fuel cell vehicles in front of Wales Millennium Centre, the home of the conference. He communicated his positive view of the fuel cell technology to not only clear the air in Cardiff and the rest of Wales, but also to foster additional value creation in the local automobile industry, employing 18,000 in Cardiff and vicinity.
Professor Garel Rhys, a veteran of UK and international automobile industry, eloquently pointed at the new view necessary to accelerate the impact fuel cell vehicles could have for Wales, i.e. by having a closer look at the used car markets and how hybrid vehicles were introduced into the market.
The FCH JU representative charted out the tools to apply for European funds and FCH JU’s strong interest in the European regions by partnering with HyER, the Hydrogen and Electric Regions Initiative. A last call in January 2013 will be open as a new opportunity to also support new demonstration activities e.g. in Wales.
Graham Cooley of ITM in his presentation put specific weight on the issue of economic synergies by using hydrogen as transport fuel and e.g. by using it in power-to-gas schemes as energy storage medium at large scale to support the electricity sector in solving its challenges to integrate fluctuating renewable energies into UK’s electricity grid.
Jon Maddy from the University of Glamorgan gave a presentation on the University’s Hydrogen Centre near Swansea and its specialised role in the research and development of the biological production of hydrogen. He also explained the University’s role in co-ordinating Welsh R&D activities and their partnerships with other UK institutions.
Willie Hall from Johnson Matthey introduced the “Down to Zero” Transport Procurement Compact which is a collaborative project between leading UK companies, organisations and Government to stimulate markets for low-carbon or zero carbon goods. The members of the Compact could be a key early market for FCEVs.
In the consecutive panel discussion, the regional representatives flagged their strong interest to introduce delivery vans and taxis as they do specifically operate in inner cities and as captive vehicles are typically refuelled by fleet refuelling stations, hence at high utilization.
The automobile industry representatives unanimously communicated their commercialization message starting with 2015. As (a) the economic aspect is a much more important issue in the delivery van market and (b) the car and delivery van sectors are typically separate units within the companies the automobile industry representatives dampened too much excitement that this specific sector will kick-off sooner than the ordinary car sector. Automobile industry has studied the markets and has come to the conclusion that in order to produce of several ten thousand units as soon as possible to reach the economic mass production threshold, large sedan cars will be in focus during the transition period.
The public was offered to testdrive the seven fuel cell vehicles, starting in front of Wales Millennium Centre, a fresh breeze and intermittent heavy rainshowers accompanying the event.
A further positive feature of the day was a visit by a group of enthusiastic schoolchildren (ages 14 & 15) from Ysgol Plasmawr (a school in Cardiff) to support their knowledge and understanding of science, technology and green motoring.
The event attracted Welsh press and TV interest, with reports on English and Welsh language news bulletins. A TV production company also filmed the event as part of a documentary on fuel cells which they are preparing.
After leaving Cardiff to Bristol the same evening, the watches went off early for the EU Road Tour team the next morning. A testdrive was organised for a small group of invited guests of a breakfast seminar. The event started at 7:15am and was well attended despite the very early start. Next to a presentation of the H2mS project and Road Tour, the Cabinet Member from the local Bristol City Council with responsibilities for the environment, Councillor Neil Harrison, welcomed the EU Road Tour team and reported on the interest of Bristol to become a node in the hydrogen corridor from Swansea to London.
A first project, then presented by Jas Singh as project coordinator, showed the demonstration of a small hydrogen fuel cell operated passenger ferry, to showcase Bristol’s history as marine technology center willing to prepare for new industry applications in this field. As Bristol is home of BAE and as such is the center of the UK defense and aircraft industry, other markets for fuel cells could also develop in this field.
Emma Guthrie rounded up that picture and presented Air Product’s commitment to develop a hydrogen production and refueling infrastructure in the UK, starting along this highly visible corridor. Until now several fuelling stations exist starting in Wales and ending in London with the new fuelling stations at Millbrooks Proving Grounds and at Heathrow Airport to supply the five London Taxis.
The H2 Moves Project – Dr Ulrich Bünger, Senior Scientist, LBST
Hydrogen as a Transport Fuel – Dr Graham Cooley, CEO, ITM Power
Hydrogen in Wales – Jon Maddy, Hydrogen Centre, University of Glamorgan
Towards Zero Carbon Transport, a procurement approach – Willie Hall, Projects Director, Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells & Member, Zero Carbon Transport Compact
Cardiff Event Video (in Welsh)
London Hydrogen Bus/Taxi Pilots – Emma Guthrie, Business Development Manager, Air Products
Bristol Hydrogen Ferry and Local Hydrogen – Jas Singh, Auriga Energy Ltd