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Australia’s first hydrogen car launched, with solar refueller

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Nearly four months after its arrival on Australian soil, the nation’s first hydrogen fuel cell passenger vehicle has been officially unveiled in Sydney, alongside another first – a solar powered hydrogen refuelling station.

The South Korean-made Hyundai SUV ix35 Fuel Cell, which first arrived in Sydney in early December, was launched by federal industry minister Ian Macfarlane – who, according to this report, was also “taken for a spin” in the vehicle – at Hyundai Australia’s Macquarie Park headquarters on Wednesday.

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In December, the company flagged its plans to build its own solar powered hydrogen refueller, as well as its own electrolyser, in partnership with Australian company Sefca.

The hydrogen electrolyser was also to be powered by the solar array, making the whole operation fully self-sustainable, with hydrogen made on-site.

Hyundai also touched on plans to build a ‘Hydrogen Highway’ in Australia, similar to those already in operation overseas, with one proposal being ‘Hume by Hydrogen’ – a hydrogen fuel highway linking Melbourne and Sydney via the nation’s capital.

Hydrogen fuel is considered by many as the Holy Grail of clean energy fuel sources, being abundant, easily produced and emitting only water when burned. But its use in powering cars is still in the fairly early stages.

Globally, Hyundai is the first car manufacturer to begin mass-production of hydrogen-powered vehicles, which it did in February last year.

And while Hyundai spokesperson Bill Thomas told 3AW Breakfast Radio that the ix35 was “an incredible car”, he also stressed that Australia was a “way off” from having large numbers of hydrogen fuelled cars on its roads.

In Australia, the federal government has supported hydrogen research through Australian Research Council funding.

But as we reported here in December, one of the latest local hydrogen fuel research efforts – the development of UNSW’s  potentially game-changing hydrogen energy storage breakthrough – has resorted to crowd funding in a second attempt to win financial support.

The CSIRO is also developing scientific capabilities and new technologies relevant to hydrogen, including research into membrane and separation technologies and the solar conversion of natural gas to syngas.

“This is another innovative example of the economic benefits from the application of science and research to an industry setting,” Macfarlane said at the Hyudai unveiling on Wednesday.

“We know more Australian industries can benefit from closer collaboration with researchers, to develop new products, new jobs and new export markets.”

And the CEFC seems to agree, saying in its own separate statement on Wednesday that it was looking to work with industry and key stakeholders to develop a program to introduce “economic” fuel cell powered commercial vehicles and the necessary infrastructure to facilitate this technology.

“The potential to produce hydrogen from renewable solar and wind energy, particularly for fuel cell powered electric vehicles, is of significant interest and potential economic benefit for Australia,” said CEFC CEO Oliver Yates.

“The refuelling facility at Ryde in Sydney will generate hydrogen from solar panels – demonstrating that you can bottle sunshine to refuel cars,” he said.  

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  • Chris Jones

    Seriously – who’s run the numbers on this? It is April 1st you know…

  • MoreBikesPlease

    According to motoring.com.au, this refuelling station currently makes hydrogen from natural gas (ie fossil fuel). There are plans to use solar to run an electrolyser, but we’ll have to wait and see on that… You’d need a lot of solar panels to power a real hydrogen station.

  • RobS

    when will the hydrogen car pipedream be revealed for what it is? With even the cheapest fuel cells still costing as much as a high end sports car for the cell alone, infrastructure that would cost billions to roll out, appalling energy density and terrible range. The whole solar generated hydrogen thing is a fraud, you can drive an electric car about three times as far using the electricity directly as you could drive a hydrogen car with the hydrogen generated from a set amount of energy. The whole hydrogen thing has been a tool of those who dont want to see any change from the status quo with decades of promises with it always “about 10 years from mass production”, in all seriousness is this an april fools article because otherwise I’m dissapointed such a fantastic website would publish sucha puff piece without calling them on their BS.

    • suthnsun

      I thought vehicle fuel cells have good energy density ( and unlikely to ever be a serious contender I agree)

      • RobS

        I don’t follow, the fuel cell itself has zero energy density as it is an energy liberation device, not an energy storage medium. My point is that hydrogen, with its incredibly low density unless super chilled into a liquid (which is technologically untenable for personal vehicles) has every low energy density and all but the highest quality high expense high maintenance systems have very high leakage rates due to the tiny molecular size. Basically gaseous hydrogen is one of the least practical energy storage mediums possible. It’s high complexity make it suitable for only a tiny few very high tech applications, primarily energising spacecraft, when gas goes above ~$4 per gallon it starts to have applications in mass transit systems but the case for fuel cell personal vehicles is just so far out of the realms of reality as to make me wonder if this was an April fools joke.

        • suthnsun

          Power density is the normal metric but energy density of the system is an important metric for non-stationary applications.https://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&ei=h50bVYXjPMezmAW89IGYAw&url=https://www.parc.com/content/attachments/fuelcells_arpa-e_parc.pdf&ved=0CB0QFjAB&usg=AFQjCNETGRehimugco6r8D2sXbOMiWQgaw&sig2=RQctkae2DFh9uO9dIY22Hg
          I know nothing about the Hyundai system yet..

          • RobS

            I don’t have any prior knowledge of that system but my first reaction is that it comes across as a lot of marketing vapourware buzz talk, they seem to indiscriminately swing from talking about the enrgy density of a fuel cell to the enrgy density of the stored hydrogen. The talk of very high temperature methanol reformation to generate the hydrogen confuses me because I can’t see the link between a new fuel cell and a new way of generating hydrogen, the fuel cell shouldn’t care about what the source of its hydrogen is but this marketing document seems to conflate the two. Fundamentally only a stored fuel can have an energy density, the engine or cell which employs that fuel has an incalculable energy density unless you are referring the the fuel contained within its reaction or combustion chamber. Generally it just seems to be confusing disparate concepts and technologies as is common in material released where the marketing has been thought through to a far greater degree than the engineering.

        • suthnsun

          https://www.parc.com/…/fuelcells_arpa-e…
          This is a pdf download

    • Coley

      The fact that MacFarlane is supporting it gives the game away, another move to keep RE on the back foot.
      Aprils fools indeed.
      ” mass production” one or two a week the last time I read about it!

      • RobS

        Yes parroting the bald faced lie that these cars are in mass production is just more sloppy journalism, this is a concept car that is nowhere near ready for release and is made in highly limited numbers for PR and research purposes only.

    • john

      You are correct not very efficient.
      Has too many moving parts in the motor.
      For commute Electric is far better.
      I find one problem to store H. or transport it presents problems as it is extremely combustible.
      We do transport FF’s in liquid or gas and we tolerate this.
      The cost of putting in H storage across the nation would be very expensive so I honestly can not see this being a solution unless there is a huge take up of this kind of energy conversion for transport.
      It does present a better solution for long distance transport than the present FF energy which we use.
      As to urban, as I said Electric, for long distance perhaps this may work but the build of transport and storage is going to be a hurdle.

    • Cburg

      How about the hydrogen internal combustion engine? All it requires is some beefed up parts to handle the higher temperatures and power, and gas injection.

      • DaveHolden

        Internal combustion is so much less efficient, though. Thus you would need larger tanks and the inherent dangers of that grow.

      • RobS

        It’s a non solution, whilst it somewhat deals with the cost issue by abolishing the expensive fuel cell it doesn’t tackle the main technological problem which is the great difficulty and risks storing hydrogen. It then adds an issue as ICE combustion of hydrogen is far less efficient than its use in a fuel cell meaning a highly inefficient way of storing energy in the first place is then further wasted by using it inneficiently. Electric vehicles are way ahead of fuel cells on range, efficiency, energy density, safety and cost and still improving. Fuel cells simply have no prospect of catching up with the current technological progress occurring in each sphere.

      • TmH

        How about a Hydrogen powered gas turbine engine producing electricity.

  • RobertVincin

    Australian technology Brown’s Gas stoichiometric hydrogen produced gas from water on-board. PRC picked up technology and has a city building an array of applications medical welding atomic waste back to carbon. I have toured the city. Market open to launch on-board vehicles. Robert Vincin

  • I’m very impressed that Hyundai beat Toyota to the punch. And that it debuted in Sydney of all places as well. And in addition, it’s solar powered as well. Great to see these cars available finally.

  • John

    The CEFC should invest in Telsa Motors to offset expansion costs to Australia.

  • Robert Comerford

    I guess when the public sees such advertising and imagines in their mind that this as a ‘free’ energy created by sunlight from water and don’t understand it is a high cost energy carrier created from fossil fuel using fossil fuel electricity they are likely to get excited. How about telling the truth about an energy carrier where basic physics tell us that it has expense and storage issues that make it unsuitable for vehicles. If hydrogen has a future in personal transport it will be in the form of alcohol.

  • TmH

    H2 from solar is here now.

    Not the only one.

    http://www.sefca.com.au/backup-power/6-bottled-sunshine-fuel-cells

  • Christina Applegate

    Rob S. Let me guess .Your yet another oil company shill dissing the perfect fuel that you cant monopolize . Bo Hoo .
    Grow up ,wake up and smell the fresh air . Lets think about the infrastucture argument first Off .Solar panels are getting cheaper by the year . We just ordered a 4 kw unit for our house for just 4000 . Enough to provide all the power we need plus we can electrolise our own FREE FUEL . How d’ya like them apples ? Free fuel motoring !
    No more polluting petrol , no more carbon dioxide , no more scuzzy petrol stations ripping us off when they are not lobbying for more wars in the middle east .
    So why dont you crawl back to your little rats nest and shut up while the smart money dumps petrol and gives our children a future worth having.
    Cost of rain water from your own roof cheap enough ?
    Yeah I thought so , no answer to that obvious question .