Australia’s busiest freight corridor will go green under a landmark collaboration between NSW, Victoria and Queensland to establish a renewable hydrogen refuelling network for heavy trucks.

The state-led push to decarbonise logistics along the eastern seaboard will commence with four hydrogen stations along the Hume Highway between Sydney and Melbourne by 2026.

NSW and Victoria will contribute a combined $20 million to build the first four stations and offer grants for long-haul hydrogen freight trucks, with an expectation industry will match the investment.

Both states have set targets to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The “hydrogen highways” strategy forms part of the NSW government’s hydrogen strategy, which was signed off last year in a move to have green hydrogen jobs outstrip those in the coal industry by 2050.

NSW will aim to have 10,000 heavy vehicles and 20 per cent of the government fleet powered by green hydrogen by 2030.

NSW Energy Minister and Treasurer Matt Kean. CREDIT:KATE GERAGHTY

Energy Minister and Treasurer Matt Kean said renewable hydrogen was a viable zero emissions fuel option for the heavy vehicle sector, which transports the nation’s food, fuel and retail goods along the east coast.

The ultimate goal of the strategy is to see all trucks up and down the eastern seaboard using hydrogen as a fuel, he said.

“Record high petrol prices have shown us how important it is to invest in new fuel sources like green hydrogen that we can make in Australia.”

Hydrogen fuel cells emit only water vapour and are considered an effective tool to help decarbonise the transport sector.

The final price of green hydrogen ranges from $9-15 per kg. For it to reach parity with diesel, government estimates suggest it needs to reach a delivered price between $4-6, subject to price fluctuations in diesel.

Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio said the highway strategy “will create jobs, drive investment across the east coast and is a landmark step towards meeting Victoria’s target to reach net-zero by 2050.”

Queensland Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen Mick de Brenni said the agreement presented opportunities for his state, including fuel security benefits.

“When you consider the impacts of the COVID pandemic and international conflicts, it’s clear that Australia must achieve full energy independence to shield our nation from foreign companies and foreign powers.“

Industry figures maintain the transition from diesel to hydrogen fuel cell trucks will ultimately be industry-led, but say the agreement will give confidence to the logistics sector to transition fleets to hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles.

“Hydrogen availability for heavy-duty vehicle refuelling is the key missing infrastructure link for our industry,” said John Edgley, the Australian managing director of Hyzon Motors, which manufacturers zero-emissions hydrogen fuel cell powered commercial vehicles.

“We need to continue to see bold investment choices by industry to take on fleet transition supported and rewarded by governments… as a customer, and often as our customer’s customer.“

The price of a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle is currently about three times the price of a diesel equivalent.

Logistics company Toll Group and Viva Energy this month announced the launch of a refuelling station in Geelong, to be operational in late 2023.

Toll Group president of global forwarding Alan Beacham said refuelling infrastructure was critical to enabling future investment in new vehicles.

“Hydrogen has great potential for our future fleets covering long distances and this announcement will provide certainty for our operations.”

Chief executive officer of the Australian Hydrogen Council Fiona Simon welcomed the collaboration between three of the biggest states on the hydrogen strategy.

“This is exactly the sort of collaboration we need to see. We’ve got all these jurisdictions really keen on hydrogen with different strategies and this gives the sector more confidence,” she said.

“People wanting to purchase fuel cell fleets have been concerned because they haven’t understood the commercial realities of owning them. We have needed data to give fleet providers a better understanding and refuelling stations, particularly along the Hume, will give us that.”

Extracted in full from: Push for eastern seaboard truck corridor to go green with hydrogen (