As a number of events happening this week have reminded us, there’s nothing like a crisis, for getting real change moving. Even though 2020 has been a pretty disastrous year on many counts, the impetus this crisis may stimulate for change in many areas, may well turn out to be beneficial to our industry in the long run
There are a number of factors all playing out at the same time. While the federal government is hogging the airwaves with its spruiking of gas, gas and more gas. Behind the scenes another gas is getting some traction, namely hydrogen.
A recent publication, the National Hydrogen Strategy pointed out that Australia has vast physical resources that could support a large-scale hydrogen industry. Both large-scale renewable and thermochemically produced hydrogen can be supported and large coastal areas are favourable for hydrogen production from electrolysis due to an unlimited supply of desalinated water and existing infrastructure (e.g. electricity, ports).
Australia is well placed to get ahead in the hydrogen game at a time when alternative energy sources are in the headlines. At its core, as a transportation fuel, hydrogen is a low emission alternative, fuel cell powered trucks use hydrogen to produce power with the only by-product being water.
Hydrogen’s low emission credibility gets even better when the electricity used to produce hydrogen comes from a renewable source. This makes a fuel cell truck a genuinely zero emission vehicle.
Electric trucks using renewable energy are also zero emitters, but will be unable to service long haul transport tasks. The number of batteries required to be fitted to the truck to get a B-double from Melbourne to Sydney would be so heavy, there would be no mass allowance left for freight.
Doing the job with a hydrogen powered truck would be much easier, as enough hydrogen can be stored on a prime mover to get it to run the length of the Hume Highway.
This seemingly unmeasurable recession the economy is now entering can only be mitigated in one way, the government needs to pour money into the economy to stimulate economic activity and keep the whole system going until worldwide demand starts to pick up.
Developing a hydrogen infrastructure, both in terms of production and distribution, would need an injection of federal cash and could lay the ground for a burgeoning hydrogen technology research, development and manufacturing here in Australia. This would be another stimulus to an economy which will badly need it in the coming years.
We wouldn’t be the only country pushing ahead with hydrogen. You can read about what they are doing in, always rational, Switzerland at the moment in the most recent issue of Diesel. The country has imported a number of Hyundai trucks and built a series of hydrogen fuelling stations through the spine of the country.
New funding for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has been announced in the last week and this could be used as a springboard to develop an industry which would not only benefit Australia itself, but, perhaps, rekindle manufacturing technology for export in Australia.
Hopefully the blip in the image of fuel cell trucks caused this week by a certain Trevor Milton from Nikola is just that, a blip, and we can do what we do best, invent and innovate.