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New Energy World magazine logo
New Energy World magazine logo
ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

Hydrogen – from space race to snail’s pace, and beyond


6 min read

Computer generated image of hydrogen tanker trailer parked alongside a hydrogen refuelling pump Photo: Getty Images
Only 11 public hydrogen refuelling stations now remain open in the UK, compared to 8,364 petrol stations and more than 57,000 public EV charging points

Photo: Getty Images

Could hydrogen ever replace fossil fuels? Despite decades of discussion, the development of a viable hydrogen supply chain and infrastructure has been hindered in the UK and elsewhere and remains unrealised. Here, Kate O’Rorke, Head of Communications at Hydrogen Utopia International, explores the past and future of a hydrogen economy.

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the known universe. The idea of powering society with clean fuel in the form of hydrogen was first proposed over 30 years ago. Yet a lack of timely UK government support, appropriate regulatory frameworks and other factors have contributed to the failure of several fuel cell and hydrogen companies and infrastructure initiatives since as far back as the 1990s.


Furthermore, the sacrifice of hydrogen on the altar of conventional, established energy sources and technologies has led to losses to the tune of tens of millions of pounds incurred by backers, as well as inhibiting the much touted ‘hydrogen future’.


A history of hydrogen – Zetek Power
Zetek Power or the ‘Zero Emission Technology Company’ was incorporated by entrepreneur Nicholas Abson in the late 1990s, and focused on developing and manufacturing alkaline fuel cells (AFCs) for stationary power generation, marine applications and fleet vehicles. After becoming fascinated by fuel cells, Abson secured private investment to rebuild Elenco when it entered administration, growing it from two to 250 employees at its peak, and rebranding it as Zetek, which would go on to become Europe’s largest fuel cell company of the time, pioneering AFC powered Hackney cabs in 1998.


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