Similar to the VHS versus Beta debate in the 80s, the battle between different types of green motoring could see hydrogen-fuelled cars come out on top over conventional battery-powered electric vehicles in the next five years.
- Hydrogen fuelled cars could be on the road commercially by 2025
- Hydrogen cars are quicker to recharge than conventional electric cars
- Car companies and state governments are investing millions of dollars into the future of hydrogen-powered cars
Hydrogen cars use hybrid technology like electric cars, yet have been proven to refuel quicker and have a longer driving range — which some say makes them the future of green motoring.
“The advantage of hydrogen cars is that it takes the same time to charge them as it takes to fill your car with fossil fuels — no more than about three minutes,” Motor Trades Association of Queensland’s chief executive Brett Dale said.
“With hydrogen you’re more likely to use the same behaviour as you would to go into a fuel station and refuel your car.
“Although we use the language recharge, with hydrogen it’s more like refuelling.”
The hydrogen car still holds an electric battery like conventional electric cars. (Supplied: QUT)
Hydrogen cars work as the gas passes through a fuel stack where it interacts with oxygen to generate electricity.
“The only emission produced by hydrogen is water, the by-product is water and a little heat,” Mr Dale told ABC Radio Brisbane’s Craig Zonca and Loretta Ryan.
“Electric vehicles are generated using coal-powered grids, power that’s been generated by coal, so this [hydrogen] is a cleaner option if we get it right.
“We could be seeing hydrogen-fuelled cars on our roads commercially by 2025.”
He said the beauty of hydrogen cars over conventional electric cars was the distance they could travel and the quicker refuelling or charging time.
“You get 1,000 kilometres per tank, which is great for [long distance] road travellers,” Mr Dale said.
“This technology counters the range anxiety many people have with existing electric vehicles.
“It’s very convenient and there are really positive signs with the work being done to bring it to market.”
Making hydrogen transportable for a new kind of fuel station
Twelve months ago, CSIRO researchers in Brisbane produced two cars powered by hydrogen derived from ammonia.
In a world first, the cars were fuelled with carbon-free fuel, showing that hydrogen could be shipped safely to other markets.
“The work that the CSIRO has done to make it capable using ammonia to transport hydrogen is similar to what they do with new fossil fuels,” Mr Dale explained.
“We now hope that old fuel stations transition to new fuel technologies, making it easier for consumers to make the switch.”
He said hydrogen-fuelled cars would complement electric cars in the commercial market, but not replace them.
“It’s an alternative for consumers and if it can be cost-effective, there’s certainly space for it in the future,” Mr Dale said.
“It’s very expensive in its current process but the reality is that if we get this right it promises a lot.”
Expanding the future of hydrogen
Recently in Queensland, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that hydrogen-powered Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) would be integrated into the government’s vehicle fleet as part of the $19 million Queensland Hydrogen Industry Strategy 2019–2024.
“Governments like Queensland are looking at the storage and transportation strategies needed for the hydrogen technology,” Mr Dale said.
“They’re investing in the back-to-base infrastructure that’s needed for the very expensive hydrogen storage system.”
QUT currently hosts the state’s only hydrogen refuelling station and recently took part in the first production and export of “green” hydrogen derived from water from Australia to Japan.
“The challenge really is storage and transportation,” Mr Dale said.
“The current focus is around this and when that’s right we will be able to do it like we do for fossil fuels.”