And as these photos show, it is going to be a close contest – with the first of 20 Toyota Mirai sedans arriving in Australia to compete with the first 20 hydrogen-powered Hyundai Nexo SUVs that have already arrived.
Both car giants say they are due to launch their hydrogen fleet trials by the end of March 2021, after both programs – and the installation of special refuelling stations – were delayed last year due to the coronavirus crisis.
The cars – 20 examples of the Toyota Mirai and 20 examples of the Hyundai Nexo – were meant to be on the road by the end of last year. However, by coincidence both companies have pushed back their launch dates into early 2021.
Toyota and Hyundai have been testing hydrogen-powered – or “fuel cell” – cars in Australia for the past five years.
Toyota initially had a fleet of five examples, while Hyundai started with just one.
Now each car giant is about to launch a fleet of 20 hydrogen vehicles, putting 40 cars of the future on Australian roads by the end of this year.
Toyota has partnered with the Victorian Government and energy supplier Arena and will base its trial out of a new facility in Melbourne.
Hyundai has partnered with the Australian Capital Territory Government (not the Federal Government) to run its trial of 20 cars out of the nation’s capital.
Hyundai Australia reportedly has 20 of its Nexo hydrogen cars sitting in a warehouse ready to go.
As these photos of a holding yard in Melbourne show, Toyota appears to have received the first four of its initial batch of 20 Mirai sedans.
While the hydrogen fleet trial is about to ramp up, it could still be a few years before the cars are available for the public to buy.
Initially, both Toyota and Hyundai will lease their hydrogen cars to business fleets who are part of the trial program.
The cost of each vehicle is yet to be disclosed but industry experts estimate it is close to $100,000.
Even at this price, it’s estimated the cars would be sold at a loss.
Hydrogen cars are seen as a solution for those who don’t want the range anxiety that comes with an electric car.
Unlike pure electric cars – which rely on fast chargers or charging at home or work – hydrogen-powered cars can be refuelled in the same time it takes to refuel a petrol car, about five minutes.
Indeed, in the US and Europe, hydrogen cars are refuelled alongside petrol and diesel vehicles at big brand service stations (which have been specially-equipped to also offer hydrogen).
While the cars and the refuelling technology already exist, one of the key limitations in Australia is the limited availability of hydrogen refuelling points.
In recent years, there have only been two hydrogen refuellers in Australia: one at Hyundai’s Sydney head office and Toyota’s mobile unit mounted on the back of a truck, to enable testing of vehicles in remote areas.
The addition of Melbourne and Canberra hydrogen refuellers will bring the national tally to four.
Industry experts say Toyota and Hyundai (and others) could begin to offer hydrogen powered cars after more refuelling points are installed.
Unlike pure electric cars which must be recharged using an external power supply, hydrogen cars create their own electricity.
The hydrogen powers a “fuel cell” which creates enough electricity to charge the onboard battery pack which, in turn, drives the electric motor. The only emissions: water vapour from the tailpipe.