Hydrogen technology | The UK’s role in the adoption of hydrogen tech

Innovations surrounding hydrogen technology seem to be a key part of the government’s ‘Road to Zero’ plans, wherein they hope to bring carbon emission to net-zero by 2050. 

The UK’s role in the adoption of hydrogen technology as an energy alternative seems a certain one. Boris Johnson announced a ten-point plan for Britain’s ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ last year, which headlined “driving the growth of low carbon hydrogen” amongst its aims. Britain will be:

  • building its first hydrogen-fueled homes this month;
  • planning a town “heated entirely by hydrogen” by 2030;
  • and publishing a Hydrogen Strategy, outlining plans for the development of the UK as a hydrogen economy.

The ten-point plan will create and support up to 250,000 green jobs and mobilise £12 billion of government investment (with potentially three times that coming in from the private sector).

All this illustrates that hydrogen could come to replace natural gas in a domestic environment as well as a commercial one.

Hydrogen-powered trains: the future?

On 30th September 2020, the first ever hydrogen-powered train ran on a UK mainline. This is hoping to be a major proponent in the UK’s ‘Road to Zero’ aim for net zero carbon output targets by 2050.

The train, known as HydroFLEX, has been supported by a £750,000 grant from the Department for Transport. This follows two years in development and further £1million investment from both Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham.  

Trains have previously run on diesel, which emits carbon, but these trains use hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, water and heat. As well as working on newly designed trains, the hydrogen technology will be able to be retrofitted on current diesel trains by 2023, propelling the decarbonisation of the UK rail network.

Tees Valley Hydrogen Transport Hub

A new research centre opening in the Tees Valley is set to be the world’s first hydrogen transport hub. The hub will provide hydrogen-powered delivery transport for a multitude of businesses, across a range of sectors. 

Uniting experts from academia, industry and government, the Tees Valley hub will drive the UK’s move towards decarbonised transport. The UK’s plans to embrace hydrogen as an alternative fuel could lead to the creation of hundreds of jobs in the region, and even for the Tees Valley area to become a global leader in the green hydrogen sector. The region would also be an R&D hub for hydrogen transport in general.

Out of the £23 million delivered to support the Hydrogen for Transport Programme, there is £6.3 million of funding to drive the creation of a green hydrogen refuelling station and 19 hydrogen-powered refuse vehicles in Glasgow (a world first, considering the size of the fleet). 

To initiate the development, the Department for Transport commissioned a master plan on the feasibility of the hub and how it can propel the UK’s ambitions for hydrogen use. Published on 17th of March 2021, the study explores how green energy could power buses, heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), rail, maritime, and aviation transport in the UK.

Hydrogen airbus

Airbus announced their concept of a zero-emission airbus at the tail end of last year. With three models announced by the firm in September 2020, all under the title ZEROe, Airbus suggests that the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft could enter service by 2035. 

Each of the three models uses both different aerodynamic configurations and various technology pathways to present a hydrogen-powered, zero-emissions future. The company intends to lead the way in the decarbonisation of the entire aviation industry.