The results of a four-year test of hydrogen cars on UK roads were recently released, and the feedback was virtually all positive. Drivers loved the quiet ride, performance and reliability. The only real complaint was the lack of fully publicly accessible refuelling stations in Britain.
The conclusion of the project was clear: without filling stations, few people would be willing to buy the cars. But without the cars, who will build the filling stations?
It's a similar situation to the one the car industry faced five years ago with electric vehicles. But this time the solution is not going to be as simple as planting a few poles on pavements at the cost of a few thousand pounds. Hydrogen refuelling stations are much more expensive.
A government and industry forecast estimated there would be 65 refuelling stations in Britain by 2020, a plan that has not been met, concentrated in the busiest parts of the country. This would make long-distance travel on common routes possible, although it was also claimed that for complete coverage of Britain, 1,000 filling stations would be needed.
The government is trying to ease the situation with meagre contributions such as ITM Power, which received £3.59 million in grants, including £1.89 million from the government, to build and run two new stations in London. Others already in operation include one at Heathrow airport and another in a Sainsbury's car park in Hendon, north London, which opened in March.
The two existing service stations are operated by a company called Air Products. Technically they are open to the public, but owners must create an account, receive training and obtain an access code. Each month they will receive a bill for the fuel used.
In Britain there are 14 hydrogen filling stations open to the public, 1 more in Ulster.
Map of Hydrogen Service Stations in UK United Kingdom