A new plan announced today by Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will see hydrogen fuel cell electric vhicles (FCEVs) added to the state’s Qfleet as part of a $19 million plan to help Queensland take a lead on renewable, clean hydrogen.
Hydrogen is potentially a very clean source of energy that could greatly reduce carbon emissions from the transport sector as its only tailpipe by-products are water and oxygen, but it has faced a great deal of criticism.
This is because currently, when generated from fossil-fuelled sources it has three times the carbon emissions of electric vehicles powered off a coal-fired grid, according to a University of Queensland study released in November 2018.
But under the Queensland Hydrogen Industry Strategy 2019-2024, the ability to produce hydrogen from renewable resources will provide a zero emissions alternative for Qfleet.
“We’re ensuring Queensland is at the forefront of renewable hydrogen production in Australia,” Palaszczuk said in a statement regarding the announcement.
“Globally, the race is on for hydrogen to be a new way of transporting clean energy that can provide secure jobs, new industries and export earnings,” Palaszczuk said.
“Last year on a trade mission to Korea I discussed the potential for Queensland’s hydrogen industry and now we are seeing it become a reality.”
To help implement the $19 million plan, former senior executive at the Australian Research Council (ARC) and now professor for science and engineering at the Queensland University of technology Professor Ian MacKinnon will act as strategic hydrogen advisor for the program.
While renewable hydrogen as long been a possibility, the cost of producing it – and the carbon emissions produced from current generation processes – have outweighed the possible benefits.
But minister for state development Cameron Dick said in a note by email that conditions are now more favourable for the renewable hydrogen industry to develop.
“Queensland’s established infrastructure, first-class export facilities and abundant solar resources and land mean we are well-positioned to be the global partner of choice for hydrogen industry and investment opportunities,” Dick said.
To trial the use of renewable hydrogen, several FCEV vehicles made by Toyota and Hyundai, the Mirai and the Nexo, will be utilised by Qfleet.
“The FCEVs are a highly visible way that we can demonstrate the range of applications of renewable hydrogen and raise community awareness about the safe and sustainable use of hydrogen,” minister for housing and public works Mick de Brenni said in a note by email.
“We are looking forward to including Hyundai and Toyota vehicles in the trial as they are at the forefront of fuel cell technology.”
Both Hyundai senior manager for future mobility Scott Nargar and Toyota Australia Manager Matt Macleod said the carmakers are delighted to be working with the Queensland Government to showcase hydrogen-powered transport.
“We’re excited to see the commitment of the Queensland Government to a clean transport future and look forward to our hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the NEXO driving on Brisbane roads soon,” said Nargar in a statement.
“The adoption of hydrogen-based solutions aligns with Toyota’s commitment to show the benefits of FCEVs to the general public and bring zero CO2 vehicles such as the Toyota Mirai to the Australian market in the future,” Macleod said.
The company supplying the renewable hydrogen will be BOC, which yesterday announced $950,000 from ARENA towards a $3.1 million pilot project that will involve the installation of a 220 kW electrolyser and a 100 kW solar array at BOC’s Bulwer Island gas facility to produce 2400kg of hydrogen per month of green hydrogen via electrolysis.
BOC will also install a hydrogen refuelling station at QUT, Brisbane.
Hydrogen from fossil fuels is currently produced at BOC’s Altona plant via a process known as steam methane reforming in Melbourne.
Once the Queensland project is complete, green hydrogen produced at Bulwer Island will mean less miles to transport hydrogen.
The electrolyser will be configured to produce hydrogen via electrolysis drawn from the onsite solar or grid sourced renewable energy.
“The Palaszczuk Government has been working with BOC and QUT to deliver both the renewable hydrogen plant at Bulwer Island and the development of a hydrogen vehicle refuelling station in Brisbane, which will allow the FCEVs to be integrated into QFleet,” Dick says.
QUT VC and president Professor Margaret Sheil AO says the university is committed to supporting renewable hydrogen development and the project is an excellent example of industry, government and academia working together on real-world problems.
“As a learning institute, it is our mission to help equip the workers of tomorrow to safely produce, handle and use renewable hydrogen and related technologies,” Sheil says.
John Evans, BOC’s mamaging director in the South Pacific says the company is proud to leverage its knowledge and experience of hydrogen and existing facilities to provide hydrogen as a zero emissions fuel.
“We congratulate the Queensland Government on its commitment to trial FCEVs across its fleet and look forward to establishing world-class production and refuelling facilities that support the emerging hydrogen economy in Queensland,” Evans said.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.