The ACT is now host to Australia’s only publicly available hydrogen refuelling stations, after the facility designed to keep a 20-strong government fuel cell vehicle fleet was officially unveiled on Friday.
The station, located at an facility owned by local utility ActewAGL in Canberra, was opened by ACT energy and emissions reduction minister Shane Rattenbury, who said the refuelling station would allow the ACT government to finally deploy the 20 newly acquired Hyundai Nexo hydrogen vehicles as part of the ACT government’s fleet.
“The ACT continues to lead the EV revolution in Australia,” Rattenbury said. “This station will allow fuel cell electric vehicles on our roads alongside battery electric vehicles, forming a strong pathway to zero emissions transport in Canberra.”
Rattenbury said there are many benefits with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, such as short refuelling times, the ability to be powered by hydrogen made from renewable energy and because they also also purify the air as they drive which will help remove harmful particulates produced by petrol and diesel vehicles.
Rattenbury added that there had been a substantial amount of interest amongst ACT government departments to use the Hyundai vehicles.
“There’s quite a few of our public servants who are keen to have these vehicles, there’s been some competition between the agencies,” Rattenbury said.
“Whether its nurses, education department staff – getting about, doing their jobs in Canberra on behalf of the community using these vehicles, becomes a great advertisement because the community will see these out and about and will begin to understand the technology.”
Hydrogen will be produced on-site, with an electrolyser installed at the ActewAGL facility and the renewable energy delivered by Neoen as part of its contract to supply the ACT with electricity from the third stage of the Hornsdale wind farm.
Managing director of Neoen Australia, Louis de Sambucy, said the company hopes the refuelling station will become the first of many deployed across Australia.
“Renewable hydrogen represents an exciting opportunity for the decarbonisation of transport, gas and industrial sectors in the ACT and beyond as we transition towards a high penetration renewable energy electricity grid.”
Research has highlighted that because making hydrogen is an energy intensive process, so if it is made with fossil fuels it is likely to lead to an increase in emissions rather than a reduction. Hence the importance of renewables. But many car makers, such as Tesla and VW, believe hydrogen cars will not be able to compete with full battery electrics.
Covid-19 had delayed the deployment of the hydrogen vehicles, as lockdowns and travel restrictions had prevented the ACT government from bring personel with the necessary expertise to Canberra to install the hydrogen refuelling station at the ActewAGL facility.
But the delay compelled the project to train local personel, with technicians from the United States guiding Canberra-based installers through the process – with the added benefit of increasing the local skill base that could be drawn upon for future refuelling stations.
The commitment to integrate the 20 hydrogen vehicles into the ACT government fleet follows a commitment by the territory government to use its purchasing power to support greater uptake of zero emissions vehicles. This in turn forms contributes to its goal of reducing emissions across the ACT economy, particularly in the harder to abate transport sector.
The Hyundai Nexo vehicles, which are able to provide a driving range of around 670km, with a refuelling time of between 3 to 5 minutes, are some of the first hydrogen vehicles available in Australia.
Individual vehicles are not currently available for sale in Australia, and Hyundai currently offers vehicles through fleet lease arrangements, while the supporting infrastrucutre for hydrogen fuelled vehicles continues to develop.
Last year, Hyundai secured an agreement with utility Jemena to supply hydrogen to a refuelling station at the Hyundai headquarters in Sydney, as the company works to address the lack of refuelling facilities in Australia.
The Queensland government is set to follow the ACT government’s lead, placing an order for five of the Nexo models to be included within its own government’s vehicle fleet.