A consortium led by South West-based hydrogen developer, Tower Group, will deliver the Exeter H2 Hub, a 5 MW pilot plant with mobile refuelling capability in East Devon, by 2026.


The plant will supply hydrogen to fuel cell electric vehicles owned by Wales & West Utilities, other utilities companies and local Councils. The facility will also be used to explore how low-carbon hydrogen could be used to decarbonise industry in the area. The refuelling station will also be open to third parties, including the general public and the private sector, to encourage the growth of the hydrogen economy in the region.


Demonstrating how hydrogen can be used in transport is a key step to increasing hydrogen production, with both retail and direct offtake hydrogen supply being planned in the area. The consortium intends to apply for Government support to advance its ambitions to make hydrogen refuelling a reality for the region.


The Exeter H2 Hub consortium is led by Tower Group and includes Wales & West Utilities, Element 2, the University of Exeter’s Centre for Future Clean Mobility, EMotive, Oort Energy, Costain and Gardiner & Theobald.


Alex King, CEO of Tower Group, today said:


“The UK needs more investment in hydrogen infrastructure. If we are going to truly level up the country and deliver on the promises of net zero, then we must accelerate our efforts and bring investment and jobs to those places desperately in need. This pilot project takes us one step further towards this goal, with many more to come.”


Tower and Element 2 are looking to build upon a pre-existing agreement to co-develop hydrogen refuelling stations in the South West. Element 2 bring a wealth of experience to the Exeter H2 Hub consortium on the installation and operation of mobile and fixed hydrogen refuelling stations. Andrew Hagan, Chief Development Officer said.


“Element 2 is excited to solidify our hydrogen refuelling network, bringing our years of hydrogen refuelling and enabling the clean energy and air transition to the South West. Combining with the additional expertise the hub partners bring allows us to build out another fundamental block of our network from Land’s End to John O Groats.”


Consortium member Wales & West Utilities maintain 1,300 vehicles in its fleet, half of which could require hydrogen to meet its net zero targets. Stephen Offley, WWU fleet manager said:


‘Wales & West Utilities believes that hydrogen will soon become the most operationally satisfactory zero emission solution for high energy demand vans. Consequently, we expect to deploy hydrogen-fuelled vans at the earliest practicable opportunity, initially in smaller clusters, that operate within a convenient radius of the hydrogen refuelling location. These clusters will each create significant daily demand for hydrogen and cover almost 90% of our fleet duty cycles: subject to satisfactory operating experience and Total Cost Of Ownership (TCO), we would expect to progressively increase cluster sizes year-on-year’.


Oort Energy is a Bristol based manufacture of PEM Electrolysers, for the generation of pure green hydrogen.Dr. Nick Van Dijk, CEO commented:


“Oort Energy are delighted to be part of these ambitious plans, that will establish Exeter’s H2 Hub as a leading force in helping to deliver on the UK’s Net Zero objectives. Oort Energy’s innovative proprietary technology will enable a low-cost and high efficiency PEM Electrolyser for the Hydrogen Production and Refuelling Pilot for the supply of hydrogen to local hydrogen fuelled vehicles.”


The Centre for Future has collaborated closely with Tower Group, Wales & West Utilities, and EMotive to assess the optimal strategies for advancing clean vehicle development and the associated infrastructure. Prof Chris Smith, Director of the Centre for Future Clean Mobility said:

“The South West could be the leading region in the UK to do clean mobility, and capture those economic opportunities and jobs. The best way of doing this is to put in place an entire ecosystem of green hydrogen production through to hydrogen vehicles, in place together at the same time. This is what we’re striving to do. No other UK region has this opportunity right now.”


Andy Clarke, Director of Integrated Transport at Costain and Chair of Hydrogen South West, said:


‘The South West has boundless potential for building a hydrogen ecosystem, with clean mobility projects such as Tower Group’s set to be a key catalyst of this as we look to reach net zero. I am delighted to see a regional innovator make a significant step forward to making the South West a lynchpin of the UK’s future hydrogen economy’.


The Exeter H2 Hub consortium also plans to work with consortium member and clean vehicle innovator EMotive, based in Cullompton, to investigate opportunities to retrofit existing fleet with hydrogen combustion engines and/ or fuel cell electric powertrains, via a pilot project of 5-10 vehicles from Wales & West Utilities, co-located with the refuelling pilot. The intention is to ramp this up to a facility where the team can retrofit and maintain the thousands of vans and larger vehicles in the region.


Dan Regan, Managing Director of EMotive, said:


“EMotive has been working on innovative clean commercial vehicle designs right here in Devon for over 5 years now. We’re incredibly proud to now be part of Tower Group’s consortium taking this leap in the Southwest towards a cleaner and greener future for our region. This project will take great steps in achieving better air quality, more sustainable industries and shine a light on the Southwest as a leader in greener transport and energy systems. It will bring inward investment to the area and also volume job creation at EMotive as we build our new facility around the needs of the consortium and project.”


Initial modelling suggests that the pilot plant could expand significantly due to demand from utilities companies alone. By demonstrating the viability of this pilot, Tower Group aim to catalyse organic hydrogen growth  to benefit of East Devon, Exeter and the wider South West. Tower Group will also use the project to look at further opportunities for hydrogen in the area, such as the capture of secondary heat and direct offtake to industrial users.


To find out more, including a full list of delivery partners, visit Tower-group.co.uk.