Jo Bamford is continuing his father’s legacy, but not in the way you would expect. Although he has a keen interest in JCB, the family business, he has shifted his sights into the world of hydrogen and is looking to utilise zero-emission transport to boost the UK economy.
Last year, Bamford’s green hydrogen production company, Ryse, acquired Wrightbus, a UK manufacturer that has made the world’s first hydrogen double-decker bus. Through this acquisition, Bamford is creating a UK-built, 3,000-strong hydrogen bus fleet across the country. However, the mission is much broader than buses.
“It’s to kickstart the UK’s hydrogen economy and secure our position as world-leaders in a form of zero-carbon technology,” he says.
“Starting with buses, and the network of five green hydrogen production facilities, we will have an initial scale to get investment going in hydrogen trains, cars and lorries. In the long term, this is essential to getting hydrogen into the heat network and being used to heat our homes.”
An Opportunity To Lead The World’s Hydrogen Push
With a global pandemic going on today and a recession looming, this is a very positive announcement. Bamford hopes that this decision will help convince the UK government to get involved with hydrogen and understand the new opportunities within zero-emission transport.
“I hope it is a rallying cry to the government,” he continues. “Many businesses are looking to invest in hydrogen in the UK, but they are waiting for the government to set out a clear, long-term, policy framework for hydrogen.”
He believes that an urgent introduction of hydrogen buses will lead to a knock-on transformation of other heavy-duty vehicles, such as lorries, trains, ships, and even ambulances and police cars. This would have the potential to create and sustain hundreds of thousands of skilled, ‘green-collar’ jobs across the country.
Hydrogen vehicles will not only work towards a zero-emission future but help create and develop new jobs, which is vital in the rebuild of the country’s struggling manufacturing sector.
“In hydrogen, we have the opportunity to create and sustain hundreds of thousands of green jobs across the UK, whilst also helping to improve air quality. Coming out of the Covid-19 crisis, as a country we need to pick a few industries to drive growth, and I hope the vision we are showing at Ryse and Wrightbus will give ministers the additional confidence they need to back British hydrogen.”
Ultimately, clean mobility will create new opportunities for UK business, especially in the transport industry. In addition to this, transport is the cause of a third of the UK’s carbon emissions, which is yet another reason why we need to focus on decarbonisation on our journey to reach ‘net zero.’
Bamford believes that, if the UK gets moving, there is an opportunity for the region to lead the world in hydrogen transport. In fact, he even believes that the passenger car sector has incredible possibilities.
“Hyundai is looking for a new location to produce fuel cells to power many of its future vehicles. I believe that if we can quickly get a lot of momentum going in the UK’s hydrogen economy we can attract companies like Hyundai and Toyota to make their hydrogen fleets here too.”
This would create an additional revenue and job opportunity stream for all walks of life, from scientists to production line workers. The UK can be a one-stop-shop for hydrogen vehicles, from cradle to grave.
With Covid-19 bringing most of the world to a standstill, businesses are being forced to cut costs, with many pulling the plug on more innovative and progressive technology and services, such as clean transport and mobility services.
This unexpected knock back means that it is incredibly difficult for companies to prioritise continuing their push into a cleaner, safer and more efficient future. However, Bamford believes that this is all worth it, pushing through a dark time to reap the rewards in the future.
“We have to look to the future, and the technologies the UK can back to create jobs and economic growth, whilst supporting our transition to a cleaner, greener and happier future. I believe hydrogen is one of the key technologies to this, and it’s only over the next couple of years that we will have a window to confirm our position as global leaders in the field.”
So, how can the government support this shift within UK manufacturing?
Bamford believes that there are five clear actions the Government can take to help unlock the UK’s hydrogen economy. This includes a renewable transport fuel obligation reform which, he says, will “ensure green hydrogen is eligible for development status.”
He also wants to see the grants introduced to ensure hydrogen fuel costs no more than diesel and introduce a short-term subsidy for UK-built hydrogen electric buses, including financial support for green hydrogen production plants.
Finally, he adds, it is vital to give a clear policy framework for hydrogen, which will give businesses the confidence they need to make long term investments. “Other countries such as Germany, China, Japan and South Korea have done this already.”
So a 3,000 hydrogen bus fleet is a great start. However, this is just the beginning. We already have some vehicles running on hydrogen at the moment, but expect to see the first hydrogen trains arrive sometime in 2022, again illustrating the capacities of this technology.
“The UK has already fallen behind many parts of the world in battery technology, but we are surrounded by wind and water – the two key ingredients for making green hydrogen,” says Bamford.
“If I was a politician looking to an industry that can create green jobs and economic growth today, and for decades to come, I know which option I would be focusing my energy on.”
Although hydrogen is the future, the opportunity is right in front of us today.