Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are expected to be the next stage of vehicular travel as several territories across the world ditch fossil-fuel vehicles as part of their green-energy strategies. Since they are powered by rechargeable batteries rather than a combustion engine, EVs produce minimal emissions at the tailpipe. Automakers have gone all-in on electric vehicles, beginning to roll out a variety of EV models and pledging to invest billions of dollars in EVs over the next decade.
One United Kingdom company, however, is throwing its hat into an alternative energy segment that has seen little investment. London-based Johnson Matthey (JM) has announced that it is building a $95.9 million gigafactory in Royston, England, to manufacture hydrogen fuel cell components beginning in Q1 2024. A statement from the company reveals that the facility will have a production capacity of 3 gigawatts of proton exchange membrane fuel cell components per annum.
These components are also referred to as polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells. According to the U.S. government, these cells produce electricity by using atmospheric oxygen and hydrogen fuel. JM’s plans to build a hydrogen gigafactory in the UK were first revealed by the Sunday Times in November 2021. The UK government has provided financial backing for the project through the Advanced Propulsion Center’s Automotive Transformation Fund.
A statement from the Advanced Propulsion Center (APC) predicts that demand for fuel cells in the UK will rise from around 10 GW by 2030 to 14 GW in 2035. This would be equal to14,000 fuel cell cars. According to the APC, hydrogen fuel cells are as quick to refill as conventional gasoline cars and have just as much power density and range. As such, this makes them uniquely suited for heavy-duty applications such as heavy goods vehicles.
Transportation accounts for nearly 30% of global carbon emissions, and heavy goods vehicles contribute a significant portion of these emissions. In 2020, medium- and heavy-duty trucks produced 26% of transportation emissions in the United States. JM CEO Liam Condon says that meeting net-zero carbon emission targets and addressing the public health concerns caused by carbon emissions will absolutely require decarbonizing freight transportation.
Several other companies are also turning away from battery electric vehicles and looking to hydrogen fuel cell technology instead. In late June, a UK-based startup called Tevva unveiled a hydrogen fuel cell electric truck with 310 miles of range. Volvo Trucks also announced the same month that it had partnered with a Swedish company and was testing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Since the vehicular transport sector is undergoing a major shift at this moment, all options for bringing about revolution, ranging from the electric vehicles manufactured by companies such as ElectraMeccanica Vehicles Corp. Ltd. (NASDAQ: SOLO) to the hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicles envisaged by Johnson Matthey, should be welcomed; the market will decide which is the better one for different applications.
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