A former car factory in Melbourne will be transformed into a hydrogen fuel cell production centre to power vehicles adapted to run on renewable energy.
Toyota’s Altona Australian plant, which was closed in 2017, will become a renewable energy hub to promote the use of hydrogen to run cars, with US$3.1-million funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena).
The Japanese car giant will fund the rest of the US$7.4 million centre, which will be repurposed into the state of Victoria’s first integrated hydrogen site.
The centre is due to include solar photovoltaics and battery storage to cover the energy requirements for the production of renewable hydrogen through electrolysis and its use for both mobile and stationary applications.
The new hydrogen centre is also expected to include an education centre and Victoria’s first commercial-scale hydrogen vehicle refuelling station on site to allow fuel cell vehicles to recharge. Arena said the site would produce at least 60kg of hydrogen per day.
Hydrogen is being promoted in Australia as a replacement for natural gas.
Australia is devising a national hydrogen strategy as the roadmap to a potential US$1.7 billion export industry, with various projects and research gathering pace backed by grant funding.
“Hydrogen has the potential to play a pivotal role in the future because it can be used to store and transport energy from wind, solar and other renewable sources to power many things, including vehicles,” Toyota Australia president Matt Callachor said.
“Right now, the biggest factor to the success of hydrogen being widely available is the lack of infrastructure.
“The sooner we move to a zero emissions society the better, and Toyota is committed to making this a reality.”
Hydrogen technology has been around for decades but large-scale applications have been rare due to high costs and low efficiency.
But hydrogen has attracted increasing attention following a series of reports highlighting Australia’s potential to become the world’s largest producer and exporter of hydrogen produced by solar and wind-powered electrolysers.
In December, Australia’s chief scientist, Alan Finkel, recommended state and federal energy ministers take three steps to develop the sector. He recommended work to allow up to 10 per cent hydrogen in the domestic gas network, which includes regulatory changes and technical standards reform.
He said every state and territory should look to build hydrogen refuelling stations focused on heavy transport.
The country needed “coordinated international outreach to keep building Australia’s profile with major trading partners as a potential supplier”, Finkel said.
Heavy vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells could meet the increasing demand for zero-emissions transport and replacing natural gas with hydrogen was a cheap way of decarbonising direct combustion, the scientist chief added.
Australia’s vast road network needs a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure. Picture credit: PXHere