Transport: Hydrogen still has advantage over batteries

Friday 26 Apr 2024

It’s April 2024 and some of Australia’s fossil fuel majors are still touting hydrogen powered vehicles as a solution for decarbonising transport. In a recent article, the ABC quoted Dr Steven Percy, a senior research fellow at the Victorian Hydrogen Hub, who says green hydrogen has the potential to decarbonise transport.

“It’s particularly promising for road freight, where hydrogen has an advantage over both batteries and fossil fuels.” says the ABC, quoting Dr Percy. The article by ABC journalist Jessica Black was accompanied by social media tiles on Instagram parroting the claim that hydrogen has an advantage over batteries showing a H2 graphic alongside a truck, a van and a passenger car.

“Operating a battery electric truck on a route like that is possible but it’s going to require numerous hours of charging time whereas with hydrogen, you can refuel those vehicles about as quickly as a diesel truck,” says Percy.

Victorian Hydrogen Hub

According to its website, the Victorian Hydrogen Hub is a partnership between CSIRO and Germany’s ARENA2036 factory. “The Victorian Hydrogen Hub (VH2) brings together researchers, industry partners and business to drive the implementation of the hydrogen economy.” states the organisation’s website.

However, scroll further down the page and petrol and diesel distributer Ampol as well as the Australian Gas Infrastructure Group are listed as VHH collaborators. The Driven spoke to the Victorian Hydrogen Hub to seek clarification on the research behind the claims made in the ABC story.

VHH chief scientist Professor Virginia Kilborn confirmed that in addition to funding from the Victorian government’s Victorian Higher Education State Investment Fund, VHH also receives funding from its industry partners such as Ampol.

Hydrogen transport claim not supported by VHH research

The Driven asked VHH about the research behind Dr Percy’s claim that hydrogen has an advantage over battery electric transport. Dr Percy was not available for comment, however VHH put The Driven in contact with Associate Professor Hadi Ghaderi, who is also listed on the VHH team, to answer our questions regarding the ABC article.

“There’s no real world Australian field trials and that’s an issue.” sad Professor Ghaderi. “From a modelling perspective, when we look at some of the charging refuelling times there could be some advantage in terms of operationally.”

The Driven asked if the claim was based solely on the metric of charging/fuelling time rather than other factors such as thermodynamic inefficiencies associated with hydrogen, which result in 80% energy losses as well as incredible complexity in hydrogen supply chains compared to electricity.

“To be fair, we need to have both technologies against each other in real world condition and test for this, but both range and charging refuelling time are factors that will influence the comparative advantage of these technologies,” he says.

Battery electric trucks are already beyond real world trials and are in commercial operation. They are also far superior to hydrogen trucks on range and charging time. For example, Tesla’s Semi truck is already operational and has a range of 804 km when fully loaded with 37 tonnes and can charge 70% (562 km) in just 30 mins.

Hydrogen, electric, dual fuel options and results from operational and commercial trials by heavy transport fleets, including log transport operations, is going to be detailed to the wider industry in this regions eagerly awaited Wood Transport & Logistics 2024 event running in Rotorua, New Zealand on 22-23 May 2024. An extensive listing of exhibitors – inside and outside the venue – are also setting up for the event. Further details can be found on the event website.

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Source: The Driven

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