The Hume Highway that runs between Sydney and Melbourne will become a Hydrogen Highway under a new program announced by Minister for Energy, Environment & Climate Action & Solar Homes, Lily D’Ambrosio.
The Victorian and New South Wales Governments are investing $10 million each in grants to fund the Hume Hydrogen Highway initiative, an Australian-first renewable hydrogen refuelling network.
The funding will support the development of at least four refuelling stations along the Hume Highway and will support approximately 25 hydrogen-powered long-haul heavy freight vehicles to adopt zero-emission technology, such as fuel cells.
The journey between the two cities is close to 900km, resulting in an average of 225km between stops.
With the transport sector being responsible for a significant portion of the greenhouse gas emissions, it’s sensible to target a variety of vehicle types to reduce those emissions. The question I have is the technology.
Clearly in the consumer space, hydrogen has not worked, with electric vehicles dominating the space. There’s already a growing ecosystem of charging networks, as well as the obvious advantage of being able to recharge on a standard outlet if you have the luxury of time.
When it comes to heavy freight, there is a severe lack of options for Australian trucking companies to transition to electric, even if they wanted to. There’s been small-scale, local deliveries explored by Linfox and Bunnings, as well as some good work done by SEA Electric in applying electric motors and batteries to existing chassis.
What Australia really lacks is electric semi-trailers that can do inter-state runs. One solution for longer journeys (when heavy freight is involved) is hyrogen-powered trucks.
There’s a number of automakers that are building hydrogen trucks including Volvo, Mercedes, Toyota, Hyundai, Nikola and Hyzon Motors, unfortunately not many have them for sale in Australia. The big question is, can they build out the infrastructure, before the range of EV trucks arrive.
When you’re dealing with a battery capacity of 75kWh, then charging it in a reasonable time is possible with 120kW-350kW chargers. If you have a truck that has a 750kWh or even 1MW battery, then you need something much faster, particularly when time is money in the commercial freight world.
Australian company Tritium has shown off a roadmap where 1MW chargers and above are due to arrive in the next couple of years.
The other problem is the battery supply. As the world’s demand for EVs explodes, manufacturers are having enough problems making batteries fast enough to supply passengers cars, let alone the massive volume required for trucks. So maybe there is room for a hydrogen highway and if this project really does cost just $20 million for 4 refuelling stations.. maybe that’s ok.
The Victorian and NSW Governments have signed a separate Memorandum of Understanding with Queensland to collaborate and share knowledge on the learnings from the HHH.
This MOU will form the basis for collaboration on the future development of an interconnected east coast renewable hydrogen refuelling network, focusing on key freight routes linking the states.