While there has been much talk about policy relating to electric vehicles in Australia over recent months, another clean vehicle technology has made a relatively quiet entry into the Australian market over recent weeks – albeit a modest one.

“Late last month, the Australian Government provided final approval for the first hydrogen powered passenger car to be sold in Australia”, said ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie.

The vehicle, the Hyundai NEXO Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV), is a compact Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) featuring a Hydrogen Fuel Cell power train that comprises a 120kw electric motor and delivers a nominal driving range of 666km.

The Hyundai Nexo (FCEV) is the first hydrogen powered vehicle to be certified for sale in Australia.

Most significantly, the Hyundai Nexo is loaded with the features normally associated with a high-end SUV (i.e. Hyundai did not skimp on the usual driver and passenger comforts to compensate for the higher cost drive train). The Nexo is also classified as a zero emissions vehicle for the purposes of national emissions policy.

Given the novel nature of these vehicles in Australia, Hyundai is making a limited number of these vehicles available by special order to private customers and fleets.

The Toyota Mirai (FCEV) has been showcased in Australia over recent months but is not yet available for sale in Australia.

The Nexo is not the only hydrogen vehicle to appear in Australia over the last 12 months. Toyota’s FCEV variant (the five-door sports sedan known as the Toyota Mirai) has also been showcased in Australia over the past year but is not yet certified for sale in Australia.

“And while talking all things Toyota, it is worth noting that Toyota is responsible for the second development that brings hydrogen vehicles closer to reality in the Australian market via the commissioning of Australia’s first hydrogen production and refuelling facility”, said Mark.

“Up till now, the only other permanent hydrogen refuelling facility in the country has been a micro-scale permanent facility operated by Hyundai in Western Sydney”, added Mark.

Toyota’s new Victorian facility is a permanent, commercial-scale hydrogen production and refuelling facility. Located at its’ former vehicle manufacturing facility in Altona in Melbourne’s west, the new facility comprises a 200kW electrolyser that uses electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

The new facility has the capacity to produce up to 80kg of hydrogen per day – enough to support the operation of around 300 FCEV vehicles in metropolitan Melbourne (assuming an average refuelling volume of 4kg and a fuel consumption rate of around 0.76kg/100km).

Toyota’s new Hydrogen Production and refuelling plant in Altona (Melbourne) has the capacity to refuel around 20 vehicles per day.

To satisfy the requirement for production of environmentally sustainable hydrogen, the facility’s electrolyser is powered by a solar-battery storage system comprising an 87kw solar array and 100kw of battery storage.

“The Toyota Hydrogen Centre was built to showcase the benefits of hydrogen fuel cell technology as part of its ongoing commitment to developing sustainable technologies for future mobility and energy needs”, said Toyota Australia CEO Matthew Callachor.

“The certification of the Hyundai Nexo FCEV and the commissioning of Toyota’s Hydrogen Production and Refuelling facility just moved hydrogen vehicles two steps closer to market scale in Australia”, said Mr McKenzie.

These two developments signal the commencement of a technology race to mass market credibility in Australia – that is, Electric vehicles versus Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles.

It is incumbent on all of us in the fuel industry to monitor this race closely over coming years and be ready to adapt our businesses to these changes when they approach market scale.

“For its part, ACAPMA will continue to engage with the pioneers and policymakers for each technology and bring credible intelligence on the progress of these technologies to our members as early as practical,” concluded Mark.

ACAPMA