While the Morrison government spruiks its spend on hydrogen infrastructure post the UN climate change summit, a start-up on the Central Coast of NSW already has a jump-start on many of its zero emission rivals – without a cent of federal support.
Since we first brought you the story in April of Janus Electric’s exchangeable batteries retrofitted into prime movers, the technology has electrified interest around the world.
Closer to home, there are a number of projects also in the pipeline as operators catch-on to the benefits of future-proofing fleets.
By the time you read this, the prototype Kenworth doing road trials around the Central Coast will be heading up to Seaspray Haulage to run empty containers around the Port of Brisbane in a B-double configuration, said Janus general manager Lex Forsyth.
A converted Freightliner Coronado is also scheduled to begin road trials this month, before going into a tipper application to cart glass for a Central Coast recycling plant.
An electrified Kenworth T610 from Janus will also soon appear at Jim Pearson Transport, which also has two Argosy trucks booked in for conversion.
“The T610 will start doing trials between Brisbane and Sydney with loaded B-doubles and doing change and charge at Jim Pearson depots, just so we can cycle that truck up and down the Pacific Highway and collect data from it,” said Forsyth.
Depending on the load, the converted prime movers can get anywhere between 400-600km on each battery, which can be swapped out in around three minutes.
Other local projects on the horizon include a triple road train for Qube, and a T609 for Fennell Forestry which will be powered by a purpose-built charge and change station at the company’s Mt Gambier HQ.
Forsyth said he’s excited about the recent growth of Janus Electrical, which also recently announced a partnership with Brisbane-based Li-S Energy to develop and test lithium sulphur and/or lithium metal battery cells, a move expected to vastly increase vehicle range and reduce the total weight of each battery pack.
Janus is also expecting to hire 50 more staff in the first quarter of 2022 and go into full manufacture mode by March, despite a lack of state and federal government support, so far.
“We’ve met with the federal and state governments, and sent ministerial briefs, but haven’t heard boo since,” said Forsyth.
“The disappointing thing for me is that they went and gave the fuel industry $750m to build more tanks for diesel storage.
“But I look at that investment and say, ‘Why would you spend that amount of money on an industry that is dying?’.
“If we had $750m invested into electric trucks in Australia, we’d have 1000 trucks electrified and we’d have the highway electrified between Brisbane and Melbourne now.
“They’ve got to invest money into new technology and new industry that’s going to evolve and keep going.”
Forsyth believes the numbers on hydrogen-fuelled trucks simply don’t add up.
“For you to produce hydrogen at $2 per kilogram, you’ve got to buy your electricity for sub 4 cents a kilowatt/hour. Where in Australia can you buy electricity for that?
“It’s physically impossible, unless they’ve got some brilliant technology they haven’t released.”
Using existing battery technology, a Janus converted prime mover can run between Sydney and Brisbane for just over $500, or about half the expense of using diesel.
Converting a truck now costs about $85,000 but the subsequent savings could see users theoretically break even in about a year, said Forsyth.