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.
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.