Planned to initially be capable of producing 3GW of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell components for vehicles each year, there is scope for the site to be expanded further, to almost triple potential capacity, the firm has said.

Supported by the UK Government’s Automotive Transformation Fund (ATF), managed by the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), it is hoped the new gigafactory will help to meet the rapidly increasing demand for hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Liam Condon, CEO of Johnson Matthey, commented,  “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.”

According to the APC, the UK will need 14GW of fuel cell stack production and 400,000 high pressure carbon fibre tanks annually to meet local vehicle production demand 2035, with an anticipated three million fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) on the road globally by 2030.

Ian Constance, Chief Executive of APC, said, “This is incredibly significant and puts the UK in an enviable position in the global fuel cell supply chain. Our insight forecasts that the UK could dominate European fuel cell production and be a centre of excellence globally and this announcement is a huge step towards realising that ambition.

“We already have 15% of the fuel cell value chain radiating from UK businesses but this could be as much as 65% just by expanding on current strengths in electrochemistry and coatings or using our automotive capability to volume manufacture components.

“Johnson Matthey, a world-leader in hydrogen technology, have seen this opportunity and I’m delighted they have chosen the UK to grow this capability.”

A Rethink Energy report, released in June (2022), predicted that hydrogen will take a lead in heavy-duty transportation of the future, stating, “It is only where there is a need for high utilisation rates, and short and infrequent refuelling, where hydrogen can take a significantly role.”

Read more: Report predicts hydrogen will take a lead in future heavy-duty transportation

Kwasi Kwarteng, UK Business Secretary, added, “This investment, backed by Government, is a major vote of confidence from Johnson Matthey in the UK. Its new facility will not only add to our growing electric vehicle supply chain, but it will also help secure hundreds of highly skilled jobs.”

At the heart of the hydrogen economy: Johnson Matthey shares how its science and technology are driving the energy transition

Johnson Matthey has been on a 200+ year journey from being a pioneer in the application of precious metals to a global leader in science for a cleaner, healthier world. With a long history in the refining of platinum group metals dating back to 1817, today Johnson Matthey’s science and research touches some of the most pressing challenges faced by our planet and its people.

With the need to address climate change and reach net zero, it is clear emissions must be cut drastically from all areas of life, including sectors that are difficult to abate, such as heavy industry, heavy-duty vehicles, buses, trains and aviation. And with increasing recognition that hydrogen will play an important role in transforming these sectors, comes the challenge of deploying the technology at scale to support the shift to a hydrogen economy.

Want to keep reading? Click here