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Hydrogen lifts off: an old fuel showing new promise

At a service station just outside Gatwick, Royal Dutch Shell is experimenting with an alternative vision of the green motoring future. Beyond the main forecourt, where cars queue for petrol and diesel, lies another, smaller canopy that houses one of Britain’s first hydrogen refuelling pumps. While electric vehicles dominate the discussion about decarbonising transport, the term has become synonymous with batteries that must be plugged in and recharged.

Yet a significant number of heavyweight players — from carmakers such as Toyota, oil giants such as Shell and miners including Anglo American — are continuing to make a case for another type of electric vehicle, powered not by batteries but hydrogen.

“This is our third station in the UK,” Michael Copson, Shell’s hydrogen business development manager, says. “Shell was the first branded retailer to put in a hydrogen site. I’ve got three more I’m building for 2020-21.”

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