The race to a hydrogen future appears to have been won by Hyundai after registering its first fleet of hydrogen cars in Australia last month.
The Korean car maker and its Japanese rival Toyota are both on the brink of introducing a fleet of hydrogen vehicles.
Both brands were supposed to have hydrogen cars on the road by now, but delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic last year have stalled their introduction.
Official sales figures for February have revealed 20 hydrogen-powered Hyundai Nexos were sold, giving the Korean carmaker bragging rights over Toyota to become the first manufacturer with the alternatively-fuelled vehicles on Australian roads.
As reported by CarAdvice last month, Hyundai and Toyota were in a ‘silent race’ to launch the first hydrogen-powered cars on local roads, with Hyundai securing a contract to supply 20 of its Nexo SUV to the Australian Capital Territory government. Toyota secured a similar contract with the Victorian Government and energy supplier Arena to run a trial of 20 of its hydrogen-fuelled Mirai sedans (pictured above, at a holding yard in Melbourne).
But with VFACTS data confirming that 20 Hyundai Nexo SUVs had been classed as registered in February, the race is officially over with Toyota’s Mirai yet to record a local registration.
Both Hyundai and Toyota will lease their hydrogen cars to business and government fleets as part of an extended trial program. Hydrogen-powered cars have been touted as a possible solution in combating range anxiety while also providing emissions-free motoring, especially critical to governments and business looking to shore up their ‘green’ credentials.
Hydrogen-powered cars can be refuelled in about the same time it takes to fill a petrol- or diesel-powered car, although the lack of infrastructure in Australia remains a limitation.
The addition of hydrogen refuelling stations in Canberra and Melbourne – joining Hyundai’s hydrogen pump at its Sydney headquarters and Toyota’s mobile refuelling station – will bring the nation’s tally to four.
Hydrogen powers a ‘fuel cell’ which in turn generates electricity that charges an on-board battery pack – this in turn sends power to the wheels via an electric motor. The only emission from hydrogen-powered cars is water vapour from the exhaust pipe.
While local testing of the nascent fuel tech is about to begin in earnest, it could be several years before hydrogen cars become readily available for the general public in Australia. Both Hyundai and Toyota have so far confirmed that only business and governments will have access to hydrogen-powered vehicle fleets.