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Hyundai commits to Aussie hydrogen future

Hyundai Australia commits to hydrogen future despite parent company’s fuel-cell tech freeze

3 Feb 2022

HYUNDAI Motor Company Australia (HMCA) is investing $1.7 million in a new Sydney-based hydrogen vehicle refuelling station as part of its ongoing commitment to expand the Australian hydrogen-mobility sector.


The announcement appears to contradict recent reports that parent company Hyundai Motor Group has canned development of hydrogen fuel-cell technology on deteriorating cost-benefit grounds, as well as halting work on future internal combustion engines.


Speaking with GoAuto, HMCA senior manager of future mobility and government relations Scott Nargar described HMG’s change of tack on hydrogen as “recent departmental changes within Hyundai” that would enable the Australian operation to deploy hydrogen-powered vehicles more quickly.


Mr Nargar, who is also co-founder and director of the Australian Hydrogen Council, said the shift would “allow EV and FCEV teams to concentrate on their respective areas of research and development, and maximise resources and capabilities moving forward”.


“We’ve got good demand for hydrogen vehicles in Australia, and I think the core focus for Hyundai – as well as other manufacturers that are involved in the development of automotive hydrogen technology – is to get refuelling hubs like the one we’ve commissioned in Sydney up and running in other states and territories.”


In addition to supporting the company’s own range of hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), the facility will cooperate with Australian gas technology company ENGV as a proof-of-concept model that may eventually give rise to a country-wide network of refuelling stations such as those that have been established in Germany, South Korea, China, Japan, and parts of the United States.


Located at HMCA’s corporate headquarters in Macquarie Park, the state-of-the-art facility will produce up to 20kg of its own green hydrogen per day, by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable electricity to power an integrated electrolyser.


The installation is expected to be operational later this year and will replace the current infrastructure, which has operated on the site since 2014.


HMCA says the new hydrogen refuelling facility will not only enable faster refuelling of its expanding range of FCEVs – its 700 bar capacity is capable of replenishing the Hyundai Nexo FCEV in less than five minutes – but enable the company to showcase the benefits of hydrogen mobility technologies to external stakeholders. 


Mr Nargar told GoAuto that Hyundai was working with government and industry stakeholders across Australia to realise hydrogen mobility projects and that HMCA’s ultimate aim was to see a connected hydrogen-vehicle refuelling network established nationwide. 


“Beyond that, we need to focus on extending the number of refuelling hubs available – we need to look at redundancy, he said.


We’re really keen to see two or three hubs in each of the main cities so that there is not only redundancy, but an opportunity to deploy vehicles in much greater volumes, whether that’s light or heavy vehicles, forklifts, or even stationary engines.”


Beyond the environmental benefits, Mr Nargar said a shift toward hydrogen power would also help Australia’s fuel security. 


Citing past and recent disruptions to fuel supplies, and the ongoing volatility of fuel prices in relation to global demand, he said Australia had an opportunity to invest in its own fuel security while simultaneously creating jobs and export opportunities. 


“As a country, we also need to reduce our emissions and, in a way, we’re in a lucky position. We might be behind the US and Europe, but we have an opportunity to learn from their experiences and become quite competitive. We can develop a highly skilled workforce and, more than that, we can reduce our energy supply issues and even export hydrogen to places like Japan and Korea,” Mr Nargar emphasised.


“Look at the job opportunities off the back of this, and the fact that global light- and heavy-vehicle fleets are evolving because of emissions requirements. Look at what happened with the AdBlue shortage that occurred over Christmas. Look also at how few refineries we have left in this country. 


“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a conflict, a natural disaster, or a pandemic, there are many things that can affect our fuel supply lines. If hydrogen is made here, we not only have fuel security, we have the big benefit of moving down the track of zero-emissions vehicles – and that’s increasingly important.”


HMCA selected US-based PDC Machines and IVYS Energy Solutions to supply the Macquarie Park hydrogen refuelling station, known as SimpleFuelFast, while ENGV was responsible for local integration, installation and ongoing operational services.


The engagement follows the announcement of the CSIRO’s Victorian Hydrogen Hub in mid-2021, which will involve ENGV, PDC Machines and IVYS Energy Solutions working in unison to construct a hydrogen-vehicle refuelling system at the national science agency’s Clayton facility.


ENGV CEO Sean Blyth said HMCA’s new Sydney facility would leverage experience gained through the Victorian CSIRO project, as well as the company’s delivery of its first public hydrogen-vehicle refuelling station, which was commissioned by the ACT Government in Canberra.


“We are excited to bring our hands-on experience developing hydrogen refuelling infrastructure across Australia to the HMCA project, said Mr Blythe.


“Together with Hyundai, we are committed to growing the country’s hydrogen sector in a safe and sustainable way.”


HMCA chief executive officer Ted Lee added: “This investment forms part of Hyundai’s long-term commitment to a zero-emission future for Australia. Hydrogen fuel-cell mobility is anticipated to play an integral role in the country’s transition to cleaner drivetrains and we intend to help lay the steppingstones toward making this vision a reality.”

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