CSIRO, you got sucked in by Toyota’s hydrogen nonsense to the tune of $1.7 million

In 2015, I was at CES when Toyota announced their big vision for the future of transportation, Hydrogen fuel cells. They believe hydrogen (or water)  is the best fuel...

In 2015, I was at CES when Toyota announced their big vision for the future of transportation, Hydrogen fuel cells. They believe hydrogen (or water)  is the best fuel source to power vehicles into the future.

With no infrastructure in place then and no infrastructure in place now, sorry Toyota, Australia is not going to be driving hydrogen-powered cars.

Unfortunately Australia’s CSIRO has been suckered into believing the hype from Toyota and our national science agency have been working on refuelling two fuel cell vehicles.

Photo from Toyotas CES press conference in 2015.

CSIRO Chief Executive Larry Marshall was one of the first to ride in the Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Nexo vehicles powered by ultra-high purity hydrogen, produced in Queensland using CSIRO’s membrane technology.

This technology will pave the way for bulk hydrogen to be transported in the form of ammonia, using existing infrastructure, and then reconverted back to hydrogen at the point of use.

It has the potential to fill the gap in the technology chain to supply fuel cell vehicles around the world with low-emissions hydrogen sourced from Australia.

The membrane separates ultra-high purity hydrogen from ammonia, while blocking all other gases.

It links hydrogen production, distribution and delivery in the form of a modular unit that can be used at, or near, a refuelling station.

This means that the transportation and storage of hydrogen – currently a complex and relatively expensive process – is simplified, allowing bulk hydrogen to be transported economically and efficiently in the form of liquid ammonia. 

Recent advances in solar and electrochemical technologies mean renewable hydrogen production is expected to become competitive with fossil fuel-based production, providing an opportunity to decarbonise both the energy and transport sectors while creating new export opportunities.

Now here’s the problem, what they don’t compare it to is the far more efficient process of collecting energy from the sun and injecting that into an electric battery, technology, basically every auto maker is working on. 

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall is excited by the prospect of a growing global market for clean hydrogen, and the potential for a national renewable hydrogen export industry, to benefit Australia.

“This is a watershed moment for energy, and we look forward to applying CSIRO innovation to enable this exciting renewably-sourced fuel and energy storage medium a smoother path to market,” 

“I’m delighted to see strong collaboration and the application of CSIRO know-how to what is a key part of the overall energy mix.”

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall

BOC Sales and Marketing Director Bruce Currie congratulated CSIRO on the successful refuelling of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, which proves the effectiveness of CSIRO’s membrane technology from generation, right through to point of use.

“BOC’s innovative engineering team are proud to be collaborating with CSIRO researchers on this technology breakthrough, as we focus on advancing the hydrogen economy and global transition towards clean hydrogen for mobility and energy,” 

BOC Sales and Marketing Director Bruce Currie

Following this successful demonstration, the technology will be increased in scale and deployed in several larger-scale demonstrations, in Australia and abroad.

The project received $1.7 million from the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF), which was matched by CSIRO. I hate seeing good money thrown after a bad solution and this is case in point. Electric is clearly the way forward with EV infrastructure globally and nationally, rolling out to power the next generation of vehicles. What we don’t need to do is spend money creating a competing hydrogen infrastructure which will inevitably end the same way HD-DVD did. 

In addition to its membrane technology, CSIRO is applying its expertise to all stages of the hydrogen technology chain (including solar photovoltaics, solar thermal, grid management, water electrolysis, ammonia synthesis, direct ammonia utilisation via combustion and/or fuel cells, as well as hydrogen production).

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Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.
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  • Peter Mcilwain
    8 August 2018 at 3:55 pm

    You may be right about electric cars, but research is what CSIRO do not investment strategy. Their tech could still be very useful. It would have been good to have pointed that out.

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