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In a new report, CSIRO and GHD Advisory has called on Australia to augment its adoption of electric vehicles with the inclusion of hydrogen powered transport – warning that the nation risks being left behind by international counterparts. 

While battery electric vehicles will drive decarbonisation of road transport in Australia, CSIRO said there are opportunities for hydrogen-powered vehicles to play a significant role with long-haul travel and freight transport.

CSIRO said this is because hydrogen-powered vehicles are quicker to refuel, have a greater range between refuelling stops and can maximise their payload because they don’t need to carry large, heavy batteries required by electric vehicles.

The Hydrogen vehicle refuelling infrastructure report sets out the opportunities and challenges for deploying refuelling stations for hydrogen-powered road vehicles in Australia.

CSIRO’s Chief Scientist Professor Bronwyn Fox said Australia needs to urgently decarbonise its transport sector, which currently accounts for 18.6 per cent of its greenhouse gas emissions, if the country is to meet its net zero commitments. Heavy vehicles are a key contributor to these emissions.

“While we know hydrogen will play a critical role, we also know that much of the key infrastructure for storing, moving and distributing hydrogen for use as a transport fuel – including pipelines, storage tanks and refuelling stations – is yet to be built,” Prof Fox said.

“That’s why this report is so important. It identifies priorities for action, including areas that would benefit from targeted research and innovation.”

The report compared the different hydrogen storage and dispensing options available, and evaluated refuelling infrastructure options based on fuel demand and distance from the hydrogen source.

It found that while all Australian hydrogen refuelling stations currently have onsite hydrogen production, Australia will need to move to centralised offsite production and distribution of hydrogen in order to refuel vehicles at scale.

Executive Advisor at GHD Advisory and lead author of the report, Shawn Wolfe, said that Australia currently has only five hydrogen refuelling stations in operation, with 20 planned or under construction.

“The pace of the transition to hydrogen-powered transport is moving a lot faster internationally than in Australia,” Mr Wolfe said.

“Companies like Daimler and Ampol are not hedging their bets – it’s a hydrogen and electric transport future.

“We need to get into lockstep or risk being left behind.”

Leader of CSIRO’s Hydrogen Industry Mission, Dr Patrick Hartley, said research is happening at every point of the hydrogen supply chain, from hydrogen production through to storage, distribution and ultimately utilisation technologies like fuel cells.

“Australia is unique in terms of our size and sparse distribution of population, so finding ways to make hydrogen available across the continent will be a key enabler,” Dr Hartley said.

“This report will help regulators and industry stakeholders understand where they can best focus their activities and progress their plans to develop infrastructure for hydrogen-powered transport.”

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