Johnson Matthey (JM) has announced plans to build an £80m gigafactory at its site in Royston, as it looks to to scale up the manufacture of hydrogen fuel cell components to meet consumer demand.
It is expected to be in operation by the first half of 2024 – and could safeguard skilled manufacturing jobs in the UK.
Hydrogen fuel cells could be used for decarbonising heavy-duty commercial vehicles – making them key to a net zero future.
Road freight accounts for about nine per cent of global CO2 emissions, with 62 per cent arising from medium and heavy-duty trucking – the hardest-to-abate transport segments.
Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) could benefit existing technologies such as fast refuelling and long range, but emit zero kerbside CO2 or other pollutants.
The site could be expanded in the future, almost tripling potential capacity by using the decommissioned Clean Air production facility, to produce both fuel cell and green hydrogen components.
Earlier this year, JM announced a refreshed strategy, with an ambition to be the “market leader in performance components for fuel cells and electrolysers”, targeting more than £200m sales in Hydrogen Technologies by end of 2024/25.
The gigafactory will initially be capable of manufacturing 3GW of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell components annually for hydrogen vehicles.
It is being supported by the Government through the Automotive Transformation Fund (ATF) and Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC).
The APC forecasts that the UK will need 14GW of fuel cell stack production and 400,000 high pressure carbon fibre tanks annually to meet local vehicle production demands by 2035.
It expects there could be as many as three million fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) on the road globally by the decade’s end.
Liam Condon, Chief Executive of Johnson Matthey said: “Decarbonising freight transportation is critical to help societies and industries meet their ambitious net zero emission targets – fuel cells will be a crucial part of the energy transition. The fuel cell market has now reached a pivotal moment with the increasing urgency to decarbonise transportation and today marks the next step of the journey to a low-carbon future in the UK. We’re delighted to be playing a key role in driving it forward.”
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng added: “This investment, backed by Government, is a major vote of confidence from Johnson Matthey in the UK. Their new facility will not only add to our growing electric vehicle supply chain, but it will also help secure hundreds of highly skilled jobs.”
The Government has committed to doubling hydrogen production from 5GW to 10GW over the current decade, as part of its supply security strategy released earlier this year.