Car makers say Federal Government support will be vital if zero-emission hydrogen-fuelled cars are ever to become a common sight on Australian roads.

The call follows a successful test this week of cars powered by hydrogen extracted from ammonia with a new metal membrane developed in Brisbane by the CSIRO.

What’s the fuss about?

Tipped as the future of green motoring, hydrogen cars are virtually emissions-free and both simple and fast to refuel.

Researchers said the breakthrough would allow hydrogen to be safely transported in large quantities for use as a source of energy — a boon to the growth of hydrogen-powered electric cars in Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

But car manufacturers have told the ABC one of the main barriers to the uptake of hydrogen cars is the current absence of refuelling stations.

“The main struggle is infrastructure,” Toyota spokesman Matthew Macleod said.

He said the Federal Government needed to follow the lead of governments in Japan and South Korea by stepping in to support the construction of hydrogen fuelling stations.

“Where the Government has provided support overseas there’s been some fantastic growth in the adoption of fuel cell vehicles, and it’s due to the fact the stations are available to supply hydrogen to support them,” Mr Macleod said.

‘Government should buy hydrogen cars for its fleet

Industry association Hydrogen Mobility Australia CEO Claire Johnson said the Federal Government could also help by setting an example and using the hydrogen cars in its fleet.

“They’re one of the biggest fleet customers in Australia,” she said.

“We would really encourage them to take a leadership role and start integrating zero-emission vehicles into the Federal Government fleet.”

News of the CSIRO’s hydrogen breakthrough has also impressed independent senator Tim Storer who is leading a senate inquiry into the potential benefits of an increased uptake of electric vehicles.

He has asked the CSIRO to make a submission to the inquiry, which begins public hearings in Adelaide today.

“This offers a possibility of export income through sending hydrogen in this form to other markets overseas such as Japan and Korea where hydrogen cars already a reality,” he said.

‘Hydrogen fuel is energy and water intensive’

But University of Queensland civil engineering research fellow Dr Jake Whitehead sounded a note of caution about the efficiency of hydrogen cars.

“The main challenge with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is they are extremely energy and water intensive,” he said.

“You’re looking at the equivalent of more than $2 per litre compared to $1.50-$1.60 for petrol and diesel at the moment, or for a battery electric vehicle as little as little as 40c.”

Ectracted from ABC