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Moreland Council launches hydrogen-powered garbage truck scheme

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On Saturday 5 August, representatives of Moreland Council and the Victorian State Government took obvious delight in announcing that $1 million was to be spent to bring a commercial-scale hydrogen refueling station for garbage trucks online.

It will be the first in Australia to be powered exclusively by renewable energy, from the council’s own solar panels, supplemented with wind energy from the grid.

Standing in front of a large garbage truck that will be converted to run on hydrogen, State Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio announced that the Andrews government was providing an additional million dollars from its 20 million New Energy Jobs Fund, which complements the $1.5 million that Moreland council has allocated for the coming three years.

Labelling the project a “first foundation stone” she hoped it could be scaled up and replicated across Victoria. She also emphasised the potential for local manufacturing jobs, with hoped for multiplier effects.

Image: Takver, Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Moreland Mayor Helen Davidson launches renewables powered hydrogen fuel cell heavy vehicle fleet pilot program. Image: Takver, Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Moreland Council has been taking a wide variety of actions to its emissions dating back to its 2001 Energy Foundation. It has been carbon neutral (with offsets) since 2012, with continuing moves to reduce offset levels, with an aim for a 22% reduction in community emissions by 2020.

Several years ago council officers realised that its 18 rubbish collection trucks (out of a total fleet of 320 vehicles) were using over 50% of the fuel and generating over 50% of its emissions.  After detailed investigations, they decided Hydrogen fuel cell technology was the way forward.

According to Stuart Nesbitt, the council’s Climate Change Technical Officer, the hope is that – planning and permits depending, the refuelling station should be up and running late next year, at the Council’s Hadfield Depot.  A 1.2MW array of solar PV will also be installed.

The trucks retrofitted during the same period.  By early 2019, Moreland’s residents should be noticing quieter rubbish collection and better air quality, while carbon emissions and costs for the council decrease.

Launch of Moreland Council renewables powered hydrogen fuel cell heavy vehicle fleet pilot program. Image: Takver, Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Launch of Moreland Council renewables powered hydrogen fuel cell heavy vehicle fleet pilot program.
Image: Takver, Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The fifty people at the launch also heard from Atillio Pigneiri, CEO of H2U a specialist developer of hydrogen infrastructure initiatives for sustainable mobility and renewable energy storage which had worked closely with the Council.

He emphasized the partnerships that drove the project and emphasiezd the ‘inspired leadership’ of Moreland Council, which is also working with vehicle manufacturer CNH Industrial to deliver the pilot project

This is an interesting project.  It seems that the Council – driven by officers who ‘get it’ and with support of councillors (a mix of greens, Labour and independents) – is willing to stick its neck out and try to show the way. They will be watched closely by groups like Climate Action Moreland, but also by councils near and far.

Will it work to drive down emissions and encourage a market in fuel cells for commercial vehicles, alongside the burgeoning market for EVs for passenger transport (In 2013 Moreland Council installed multiple public charging points, which are becoming more frequently used)?

Presently, it’s unclear what the dominant technology for urban transport will be.  Will Tesla’s BEVs capture not merely the headlines but also the hearts, minds and markets? The city of Sacramento recently announced it was going for electric battery garbage trucks while Toyota plumps for hydrogen.

Will fuel cells fail to come down the learning curve, generate economies of scale and so be useful only in niches where cost is not as important as performance (such as the military).  Moreland Council is taking a punt.  We will know soon enough if they win big.”

Watch this space…

Additional (and invaluable) input from John Englart

   

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  • DugS

    So where exactly is the hydrogen coming from?
    It amazes me how anybody could still think HFC’s are a step in the right direction for domestic land transportation. Their inherent lack of efficiency compared to batteries, difficulty with storage, explosion risk and the cost of building the support infrastructure has been demonstrated innumerable times, yet here we are with a bunch of ‘They get it’ council staff who clearly don’t get it and have been sold green manure.

    • Just_Chris

      The hydrogen is coming from electrolysis powered by renewable energy. Garbage trucks are a weight sensitive, every kg of batteries is a kg less of garbage. Faster filling is also a clear advantage for commercial vehicles. I have serious issues with the way people talk about zero emission transport battery ev for when u need a battery ev, fuel cell ev when u need a fuel cell ev.

      • Agreed Chris. Battery heads like DugS shouldn’t get so chippy about HFCVs because after all most contain a battery too.

    • It’s a step in the right direction for the day when there will be surpluses of solar and wind power in a 100% renewable energy system when any usage for that surplus power, such as power-to-gas, electrolysis of water, is an efficiency gain compared to curtailing or constraining (aka “wasting”) energy.

      But when these hydrogen vehicles take to the road – their longer range and faster refuelling make them superbly efficient compared to their battery only stable-mates.

      HFC vehicles are pretty much the gold standard of renewable energy vehicles – we just need to build a refuelling infrastructure to the same high standard.

      • DogzOwn

        “when these hydrogen vehicles take to the road – their longer range and faster refuelling make them superbly efficient compared to their battery only stable-mates.”

        Maybe valid for long haul trucks but no way for stop/start urban garbage collection .

        • Actually the idle time during the stops is ideal for the hydrogen fuel cell to top up the charge in the battery (or sometimes the super-capacitor) – assuming of course that the vehicle has regenerative breaking so that the energy of the starts is not all lost during the stops.

          Whereas it is with the long-haul continuous high-power heavy duty jobs that the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are not as powerful as internal combustion engines because then the HFC can’t top the battery up faster than it is discharging.

  • Well done Moreland Council and the Victorian State Government!
    Renewable hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is a brilliant solution – reminding me of the very successful Aberdeen, Scotland hydrogen bus project.
    http://aberdeeninvestlivevisit.co.uk/H2-Aberdeen/Hydrogen-Bus/Hydrogen-Bus-Project.aspx

    Scottish Scientist
    Independent Scientific Adviser for Scotland
    https://scottishscientist.wordpress.com/

    * Wind, storage and back-up system designer
    * Double Tidal Lagoon Baseload Scheme
    * Off-Shore Electricity from Wind, Solar and Hydrogen Power
    * World’s biggest-ever pumped-storage hydro-scheme, for Scotland?
    * Modelling of wind and pumped-storage power
    * Scotland Electricity Generation – my plan for 2020
    * South America – GREAT for Renewable Energy

  • Craig Allen

    It would be good to get some info on the economics of this. Will results from the Moreland project be convincing to less progressive councils?

    • Miles Harding

      I should say so!!
      The message will be “don’t follow us”

  • Miles Harding

    Moreland == contraction of Moron land !!

    What are these idiots doing??
    Their piles of rotting gargabe produce copious amounts of methane, which can readily be burned in their garbage trucks. Most of us would call it CNG.

    Hydrogen is dead and has been from the beginning.

  • Coley

    More hydrogen fool cell believers, Been sold a pup by the looks of it.

  • Malcolm Scott

    Pleasing to see that the author has presented a balanced perspective noting that it’s uncertain yet which ultra low/zero emissions architecture will work best for garbage trucks, and perhaps also for this particular use case that Moreland City Council has.

    Some of the press releases and social media commentary around this announcement seem a bit over the top with their blind enthusiasm without explaining the history of HFC in vehicles and why this trial will be different.

    Can anyone advise what the vehicle architecture will be? ie, is it solely HFC (small battery included), or will it be using the HFC as a range extender on a full performance plug-in battery electric architecture?

    It’s interesting to see the different approaches emerge. When you have access to low cost batteries, you go for big battery solutions with their attendant benefits of faster charging lower unit cost longer life more power (BYD, Tesla), and when you don’t you go for smaller batteries combined with other solutions and all sorts of workarounds (Volvo, Proterra initially).

    Looking forward to the Tesla semi trailer reveal next month. Will it kill off heavy vehicle diesel engine manufacturing, or be just a pathway for a particular solution?

  • john

    When even Toyota is going to abandon the fuel cell technology and go battery I find it hard to work this out.
    Storage of hydrogen is very difficult and expensive.
    On set run usage buses and municipal waste collection is ideal for the uptake of battery power.
    This is the way that local government is moving overseas why on earth are we going this way?

    • nakedChimp

      Because a population of 28 million must do it differently to the remainder of the world – to show ’em 😉

      Ah well, the GDR was a test for socialism, with 16 million people – couple people died, some got deprived of their freedom, most survived and some good came from it as well. Experiment lasted 45 years and – luckily – ended peacefully.
      Let’s hope all this one here does is waste a couple million taxpayer money and learn something from it.

      I dearly hope that ‘Watch this space..’ is a promise and we get updates on this.