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Leading global car-makers make hydrogen pledge

Hydro-gen next: While hydrogen-powered cars may sound like a futuristic flight of fancy to some, car-makers such as Toyota have already developed fully fledged FCEVs for sale in international markets.

Hydrogen Council forms to accelerate hydrogen tech development and global adoption

30 Jan 2017

THIRTEEN international companies, including car-makers BMW, Daimler, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota, have come together in Davos, Switzerland, to form a committee to push hydrogen as a viable and sustainable alternative energy source around the world.

The alliance, dubbed the Hydrogen Council, is set to outline the benefits of hydrogen-derived energy solutions – including fuel-cell technology – to businesses, policy-makers and international agencies in a bid to get stakeholders on-board.

A number of car manufacturers have already developed hydrogen-powered fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) for mass production, including Toyota (Mirai), Honda (Clarity Fuel Cell), Hyundai (ix35 FCEV) and Mercedes-Benz (F-Cell), while various other companies have dipped their toe into hydrogen technology development including Ford, Nissan and Chevrolet.

FCEVs are able to produce electricity from a hydrogen chemical reaction and emit only water vapour, making them an attractive alternative to pure-electric vehicles and and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) which can require lengthy battery recharging times and, in the case of hybrids, still produce harmful emissions.

However, mass-market FCEV adoption has been largely hampered by a lack of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure, something council members aim to address as they “accelerate their significant investment in the development and commercialisation of the hydrogen and fuel-cell sectors”.

Last year, Toyota Australia built its own mobile hydrogen refuelling station to tour the country in a bid to garner interest from government and investors in the new technology, while Hyundai Motor Co Australia sold a fleet of 20 FCEVs to the ACT government and has a refuelling station at its headquarters in Macquarie Park, Sydney.

The investment in hydrogen is said to total around €1.4 billion ($A1.99 billion) each year from the council members, which also include Air Liquide, Alstom, Anglo American, Engie, Royal Dutch Shell (in partnership with Kawasaki Heavy Industries), The Linde Groupe and Total.

Air Liquide CEO and Hydrogen Council co-chair Benoit Potier said proactive action needs to be taken by big business and government to reduce fossil fuel emissions.

“The 2015 Paris agreement to combat climate change is a significant step in the right direction but requires business action to be taken to make such a pledge a reality,” he said.

“But we cannot do it alone. We need governments to back hydrogen with actions of their own – for example, through large-scale infrastructure investment schemes. Our call today to world leaders is to commit to hydrogen so that together we can meet our shared climate ambitions and give further traction to the emerging hydrogen ecosystem.”

Toyota chairman and council co-chair Takeshi Uchiyamada said hydrogen technology would also benefit many industries, not just the automotive and transportation sectors.

“The Hydrogen Council will exhibit responsible leadership in showcasing hydrogen technology and its benefits to the world,” he said. “It will seek collaboration, cooperation and understanding from governments, industry and most importantly, the public.

“We know that in addition to transportation, hydrogen has the potential to support our transition to a low-carbon society across multiple industries and the entire value chain. The Hydrogen Council aims to actively encourage this transition.”

Hyundai Motor Company vice-chairman and head of R&D Woong-Chul Yang said partnering with more than just automotive brands will help legitimise hydrogen as a viable alternative fuel source.

“Since the early 1990s, major automotive OEMs considered fuel cell as an ultimate future powertrain,” he said. “After two decades, the major technical barriers of fuel cell are solved and it is now ready for commercialisations.

“But there were limitations before in popularisation of the fuel cell vehicles by the automotive industry alone. Hydrogen Council will provide a platform where global business leaders in different sectors can cooperate together and accelerate the common goal of realising the hydrogen economy.”

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