Hydrogen, New trucks, News

Focus on hydrogen-powered transport or get left behind, warns new report


Australia needs to do better when it comes to plans and policies for fuelling hydrogen trucks or it will be left behind by the rest of the world, warns a new report.

The study released this week by the CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, calls for Australia to focus on hydrogen-powered transport, alongside electric vehicles.

While battery electric vehicles will drive decarbonisation of road transport in Australia, there are opportunities for hydrogen-powered vehicles to play a significant role with long-haul travel and freight transport, the report said.

This is because hydrogen-powered vehicles are quicker to refuel, have a greater range between refuelling stops and can maximise their payload because they don’t need to carry large, heavy batteries required by electric vehicles.

The ‘Hydrogen vehicle refuelling infrastructure’ report sets out the opportunities and challenges for deploying refuelling stations for hydrogen-powered road vehicles in Australia.

CSIRO’s chief scientist, Prof Bronwyn Fox, said Australia needs to urgently decarbonise its transport sector, which currently accounts for 18.6 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions, if the country is to meet its net zero commitments. Heavy vehicles are a key contributor to these emissions.

“While we know hydrogen will play a critical role, we also know that much of the key infrastructure for storing, moving and distributing hydrogen for use as a transport fuel – including pipelines, storage tanks and refuelling stations – is yet to be built,” Prof Fox said.

“That’s why this report is so important. It identifies priorities for action, including areas that would benefit from targeted research and innovation.”

The report compared the different hydrogen storage and dispensing options available, and evaluated refuelling infrastructure options based on fuel demand and distance from the hydrogen source.

It found that while all Australian hydrogen refuelling stations currently have onsite hydrogen production, we will need to move to centralised offsite production and distribution of hydrogen in order to refuel vehicles at scale.

Shawn Wolfe, executive advisor at GHD Advisory and lead author of the report, said Australia currently has only five hydrogen refuelling stations in operation, with 20 planned or under construction.

The latest opened at bp’s Lytton service station on August 14, offering renewable hydrogen produced using solar power at Bulwer Island.

“The pace of the transition to hydrogen-powered transport is moving a lot faster internationally than in Australia,” Wolfe said.

“Companies like Daimler and Ampol are not hedging their bets – it’s a hydrogen and electric transport future.

“We need to get into lockstep or risk being left behind.”

Dr Patrick Hartley, leader of CSIRO’s Hydrogen Industry Mission, said research is happening at every point of the hydrogen supply chain, from hydrogen production through to storage, distribution and ultimately utilisation technologies like fuel cells.

“Australia is unique in terms of our size and sparse distribution of population, so finding ways to make hydrogen available across the continent will be a key enabler,” Dr Hartley said.

He said the report will help regulators and industry stakeholders understand where they can best focus their activities and progress their plans to develop infrastructure for hydrogen-powered transport.

The federal government is currently reviewing the 2019-released National Hydrogen Strategy, with a view to becoming a “global hydrogen leader” by 2030.

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