Features
15 Nov 18

Melbourne become Australia’s hydrogen hub

Hobsons Bay City Council will soon receive 3 Toyota Mirai fuel cell EVs from Toyota, to be tested by the Council members for a period of 12 weeks. They will be using the vehicles just like any other Council vehicle.

Zero emissions

It’s not a coincidence that Hobsons Bay has been selected for the trial. For one, the City Council is targeting zero net emissions by 2020. Reducing vehicle emissions is a key pillar to reach these objectives.

Another reason is the city’s location, a 13 minute drive to Toyota’s former manufacturing site in Altona, that was closed in October 2017. Toyota will install a mobile hydrogen refueller at the former plant.

Rationale

Toyota’s objective for the trial is mainly to understand how the new technology can be normalized and accepted by the public. To this effect, the City Council’s users will feed back their experiences of using an FCEV as a daily driver to Toyota.

Forklifts

The Mirai’s are not Melbourne’s first experience with hydrogen. 2 hydrogen fuel cell forklifts are already being trialled at the Altona plant, where they are being compared with EV forklifts. The results are positive: "With conventional forklift special care is needed when charging and maintaining the battery, whereas a FC forklift is considered simpler when it comes to refuelling and scheduled maintenance," says Bob Walmsley, in charge of the project.

Toyota

Thanks to the Mirai and the forklift test units, Toyota can consider itself the Australian leader in the introduction of hydrogen technology. The Japanese brand is working with governments at levels in Australia to accelerate the roll-out of hydrogen transport, focusing on public-private partnerships.

Local feedback

Connector APAC’s Shane Curran sees a bright future for hydrogen: “This is certainly an interesting initiative and well overdue in Australia. For a while now, Australia has been lagging major automotive regions in terms of alternative and renewable fuels. Currently there is no government impost or tax based on CO2 or other emissions, but it’s only a matter of time before that changes.

Toyota have been at the forefront of hydrogen fuel cell technology for some time now and launched the first production vehicle with the Mirai almost 3 years ago. Most of the alternative fuel attention has been focussed on electric vehicles, but I do think there’s still a long way to go before that fight is over. Hydrogen is a highly renewable resource and the only emission is water.

Until quite recently, the only commercially viable means of producing hydrogen has been via natural gas, which somewhat defeats the purpose, you’re still dependant on fossil fuels. It’s only very recently that the CSIRO – an Australian institution coincidentally – developed membrane technology that allows a totally renewable extraction method using ammonia.”

Shane had the opportunity to try out the Mirai first hand. He is positive about this experience: ”While it’s a ‘feel-good’ factor to have hydrogen in your fuel tank, the fact is that it’s a very good car apart from that. I think Toyota recognise that while renewable fuels are the future, the adoption of these types of vehicles will also depend on the car being accepted in its own right.”

Authored by: Yves Helven