Australia will soon have 40 hydrogen-powered cars on local roads – even though there is only one refuelling station nationally to date.
In addition to 20 Hyundai Nexo hydrogen-powered SUVs due to hit the road next month, Toyota has confirmed it will import 20 Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell sedans from next year.
The Toyota and Hyundai hydrogen fuel cell cars are estimated to cost about $100,000 each, however the price has not been made public and neither company has disclosed pricing. For now, the vehicles are only available for lease to government agencies.
Hydrogen-powered cars will not be available for the public to buy for years to come because there are limited refuelling points, however the arrival of the first 40 cars is being regarded by the automotive industry as a crucial stepping stone.
As of today, the only hydrogen fuel cell refuelling point is located at Hyundai’s Sydney head office (pictured below).
However, the Australian Capital Territory is due to open its first hydrogen fuel cell refuelling point next month, while another facility is due to come online in Altona near Toyota’s Melbourne head office next year. There are also plans for a refuelling point in Western Sydney some time in 2021 or 2022.
Unlike hybrid cars which make their own electricity when on the move and provide a boost at low speeds, plug-in hybrids which can drive a limited distance on electric power before switching over to a petrol engine, and pure electric cars which rely solely on battery power, hydrogen fuel cell cars can be refuelled in less than five minutes (just like a petrol car) and have a driving range similar to conventional vehicles.
Hydrogen-powered cars are seen as an ideal alternative for motorists who need to travel vast distances and need quick refuelling times. However, the cost of the technology and limited refuelling points means the rollout will likely be gradual.
While Korean car maker Hyundai has 20 examples of the Nexo hydrogen fuel cell car stored in a warehouse in Canberra ready for deployment once the refuelling station opens there, a statement issued today by Japanese car maker Toyota said the Mirai will be available to “select business and government fleets from the first quarter of 2021”.
Toyota has had five examples of the current generation Mirai in Australia – followed around by a truck with a mobile hydrogen refuelled on board – since 2015. Toyota opted for a portable hydrogen refueller option so it could test its vehicles in a range of harsh conditions.
“First deliveries of the all-new Mirai are expected to coincide with the commissioning of a solar-powered hydrogen production site and refuelling station … at Toyota's Centre of Excellence in the Melbourne suburb of Altona,” said a Toyota media statement.
“To be unveiled in Japan next month, the new Mirai is markedly different to its predecessor – signalled by a stylish redesign that features elegant proportions and sleek bodywork,” the company said.
A new rear-wheel-drive layout (pictured above) and the use of three hydrogen tanks (previously two) has increased seating capacity from four occupants to five.
In a media statement, Toyota Australia Vice President Sales and Marketing Sean Hanley said: “Toyota is committed to accelerating the popularity and diversity of electrified vehicles that reduce CO2 emissions and air pollution.
“The best way to demonstrate the long-term viability and environmental benefits of hydrogen-powered fuel-cell electric vehicles is to supply cars to local industries and governments that share our vision of a zero-emission future,” he said in the statement.
Toyota said the car industry's ability to "accelerate electrification in Australia" depends on the development of an adequate infrastructure, including electric vehicle charge points and hydrogen refuelling.
"The Australian Government has signalled its support for this emerging sector through funding rounds from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)," said the Toyota bulletin.
"Most recently, the CEFC announced $300 million of investment funding for hydrogen energy projects, which are considered vital for developing the opportunity that hydrogen economy offers while supporting zero-emission transport."