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All you need to know about hydrogen – Part 2

future hydrogen

This is the second part of our series, All you need to know about hydrogen. This one looks at the future of hydrogen and hydrogen vehicles in Australia. At the end, we answer some of your FAQs.

The future of hydrogen in Australia

At the time of writing, it’s not possible to buy an FCEV. However, they are being tested on Australian roads. State governments are also supporting the development of hydrogen technology for freight vehicles.

  • In 2021, Canberra opened the first public hydrogen refuelling station and Toyota opened its first refuelling station in Melbourne. Further projects in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth are under development.
  • Hyundai is spending $1.7 million on a new hydrogen refuelling station at its Sydney head office. The station will produce its own hydrogen on site, rather than having it delivered.
  • In 2021, the Qld government began a 3-year trial of 5 Hyundai Nexo vehicles and the the ACT government bought a fleet of 20 Hyundai Nexo vehicles.
  • In March 2022, the Qld, NSW and Vic governments began a collaboration on a hydrogen refuelling network for freight on the Hume, Pacific and Newell Highways. For example, the Hume by Hydrogen project will provide at least 4 refuelling stations for trucks travelling along this freight route.
  • An Australian FCEV company, H2X Global, manufactures hydrogen vehicles in Port Kembla. Its extended-range hydrogen-powered Warrego ute is being tested in Europe and will sell for around $189,000.

The future of FCEVs

Five years ago, KPMG asked auto executives all over the world what they thought about the future of BEVs and FCEVs:

  • 62% believed EVs would fail because of charging difficulties.
  • 78% believed FCEVs would be the golden bullet of electric mobility.

Things have changed rapidly and now BEVs have become the current conventional wisdom. The latest KPMG global automotive study did not even mention FCEVs. Executives expressed a wide range of views but expected BEV market share to grow dramatically by 2030, with or without subsidies. They believe EV adoption will depend partly on large investments in DC fast-charging infrastructure.

Interestingly, over 75% of executives expect consumers to require charge times under 30 minutes when travelling. This could be fulfilled with FCEVs.

Analysts LMC Automotive forecast FCEVs would become more popular around 2035 when renewable energy is more developed. However, they expected ICE vehicles to make up half of vehicles worldwide by 2030 and 10% by 2050. IHS Markit expected little FCEV activity before 2030, with about half a million FCEVs a year by 2032. They forecast 70% of vehicles by 2030 would be ICE or mild hybrid worldwide.

The Australian Government recently asked consultants, Advisian, in May 2021 to forecast the likely use and cost of hydrogen in 2030 and 2050. It found:

  • In 2030, it would still be cheaper to own an ICE vehicle.
  • In 2050, it would be cheaper to own an FCEV.

This is because the price of petrol will rise in the future, but the price of FCEVs and delivered hydrogen will fall. In fact, FCEV technology can achieve much higher fuel efficiency than current ICE technology.

Australians still prefer petrol and diesel

The share of what China calls “new energy vehicles”, is still very small in Australia. At 31 January 2022, there were 18.9 million registered passenger and light commercial vehicles of which:

  • 14.5 million (70.1%) are petrol
  • 5.6 million (27.2%) are diesel
  • 40,000 (0.2%) are BEVs
  • 277,000 (1.3%) are hybrid EVs.

Australians currently own 7 times more hybrid EVs than BEVs. It may be counterproductive at this stage to focus on BEVs only. It could be a long time before Australians embrace BEVs to the same extent as ICE vehicles. ICE vehicles are much cheaper, more versatile and work on all terrains and in all kinds of weather.

Meanwhile, FCEVs are not even available to buy.

In the long run, it may suit us better to have a mixed automotive economy of vehicles powered by batteries, hydrogen, natural gas or solar, combined with the best advanced ICE technology.

In the future automotive melting pot, FCEVs may find their place.


How long does it take to refuel an FCEV?

It takes only a few minutes to refuel an FCEV, much the same as filling a petrol or diesel car.

How far can an FCEV go?

FCEVs can travel up to 666 kms before they need to refuel. The Toyota Mirai has a 650km range while the Hyundai NEXO can go 666km.

Do FCEVs have a battery?

FCEVs do not have a battery like those in BEVs. A battery stores electricity to use, whereas a fuel cell generates electricity by converting hydrogen. However, FCEVs need a small, high-voltage battery as a buffer in the same way as ICE vehicles.

Is FCEV a hybrid car?

No. FCEVs is not a hybrid car and uses only hydrogen as a fuel.

Are hydrogen cars cheaper than petrol?

No. Hydrogen cars are more expensive to buy than petrol cars. There are only 2 passenger car FCEVs in the world right now: Toyota Mirai (21% of sales) and Hyundai NEXO (60% of sales). In Korea, the NEXO sells for about $AU84,000. Both cars are certified for sale in Australia but available for special order and lease only, not for everyday sale and use.

Is hydrogen cheaper than petrol?

Hydrogen is cheaper than petrol. To travel 650 kms, it costs:

  • $75-80 (141 litres) to refuel a Mirai with 0.7Kg/100kms of hydrogen
  • $91 ($1.75 a litre) to refuel an ICE vehicle
  • $42 (30-60 cents per KWh) to recharge a BEV twice (necessary to travel 650 kms).

What is the biggest drawback of using hydrogen fuel?

The biggest drawback of using hydrogen fuel in Australia is barely any service stations currently sell it.

What are 3 disadvantages of hydrogen?

The 3 disadvantages of hydrogen vehicles are:

  • They are still very expensive.
  • Hydrogen is not yet a widely available fuel.
  • Industrial production of hydrogen may not yet be sustainable.

Can ICE cars run on hydrogen?

Yes. Toyota has started converting traditional petrol engines to run on hydrogen fuel. It is currently building a hydrogen HiLux prototype in the UK.

Is an FCEV better than an EV?

It is not easy to say whether an FCEV is better than an EV. It depends on the owner and the way they use it. Owners of an FCEV can refuel at a service station and get a similar range to a traditional vehicle. But it will take a substantial investment to create a national network of hydrogen recharging stations. BEVs currently have the advantage of running on the existing electricity network.

However, FCEVs and EVs are both electric vehicles and have these aspects in common:

  • Production of the vehicle itself, electricity and hydrogen can use a lot of unsustainable energy.
  • Regenerative braking captures energy when you slow down or brake.
  • There are no emissions from the tailpipes.

Are FCEVs heavier than BEVs?

No. EVs are heavier than FCEVs for the same travel range. The extra weight to make an FCEV travel further is negligible, but a BEV must be substantially heavier to travel more than 160-240 kms. Each extra kilo of battery weight demands more structural weight, heavier brakes, larger motor, and more batteries to carry it around.

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Corrina Baird

Writer and Researcher, greenslips.com.au

Corrina used to lend her car to her kids and discovered what Ls, Ps and demerits mean for greenslips. After 20 years in financial services and over 8 years with greenslips.com.au, she’s an expert in the NSW CTP scheme. Read more about Corrina

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