The government’s of NSW, Victoria and Queensland  have made a landmark announcement,  stating they will collaborate to establish a hydrogen refuelling network for heavy trucks along the major highways linking the three states.

The plan calls  for the first four refuelling stations  to be built along the Hume Highway  between Sydney and Melbourne by 2026, but will eventually span the Hume, Newell and Pacific Highways linking the three largest metropolises in the country.

The impetus to establish the network is again state-led and bypasses any Federal help at this stage, with NSW and Victoria to each contribute a combined $20 million to build the first four hydrogen stations, signalling they will also be offering grants for long-haul hydrogen powered freight trucks, as an incentive for industry to also invest.

NSW and Victoria, despite one being a Coalition government and the other a Labor administration, are in lock step on the quest to reduce emissions and both  have set targets to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, well ahead of the Federal government plan.

The “hydrogen highways” strategy which was signed off last year, forms part of the NSW government’s hydrogen strategy, in its quest to have green hydrogen jobs outstrip those in the coal industry by 2050.

NSW  has the aim of having 10,000 heavy vehicles and 20 per cent of the government fleet powered by green hydrogen by 2030.

Energy Minister and Treasurer Matt Kean said renewable hydrogen was a viable zero emissions fuel option for the heavy vehicle sector, which transports the nation’s food, fuel and retail goods along the east coast.

The ultimate goal of the strategy is to see all trucks up and down the eastern seaboard using hydrogen as a fuel, he said.

“Record high petrol prices have shown us how important it is to invest in new fuel sources like green hydrogen that we can make in Australia.”

Hydrogen fuel cells emit only water vapour and are considered an effective tool to help decarbonise the transport sector.

Green hydrogen currently ranges in price from $9-15 per kg and experts say that for it to reach parity with diesel, it needs to reach a price between $4 and $6 er kg, that is given current diesel prices.

Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio believes the highway strategy “will create jobs, drive investment across the east coast and is a landmark step towards meeting Victoria’s target to reach net-zero by 2050.”

Queensland  is also part of the  program and its Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen, Mick de Brenni believes the agreement presents opportunities for his state, and particularly underlines the fuel security benefits.

“When you consider the impacts of the COVID pandemic and international conflicts, it’s clear that Australia must achieve full energy independence to shield our nation from foreign companies and foreign powers.“

Fiona Simon, the CEO of the Australian Hydrogen Council welcomed the announcement saying it is exactly the sort of collaboration we need to see.

“We’ve got all these jurisdictions really keen on hydrogen with different strategies and this gives the sector more confidence,” she said.

“People wanting to purchase fuel cell fleets have been concerned because they haven’t understood the commercial realities of owning them. We have needed data to give fleet providers a better understanding and refuelling stations, particularly along the Hume, will give us that.”

Hyzon Motors Australia’s managing director, John Edgley, which has  recently announced a number of hydrogen fuel powered vehicle sales in Australia and recently established an Australian HQ at the RACV campus in Melbourne, said that hydrogen availability for heavy-duty vehicle refuelling is the key missing infrastructure link for our industry.

, the Australian managing director of Hyzon Motors, which manufacturers zero-emissions hydrogen fuel cell powered commercial vehicles.

“We need to continue to see bold investment choices by industry to take on fleet transition supported and rewarded by governments… as a customer, and often as our customer’s customer,“ said John Edgley

The other factor is the price of  hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles at the moment, with the bottom line  currently running at about three times the price of a diesel equivalent. However many believe as volume around the world increases and technology is amortised, this will drop significantly

Earlier this month Toll and Viva Energy announced they were jointly launching a refuelling station in Geelong,  which they say will be operational late next year.

Toll Group’s Alan Beacham, who is the president of global forwarding for the logistics giant,  said refuelling infrastructure was critical to enabling future investment in new vehicles.

“Hydrogen has great potential for our future fleets covering long distances and this announcement will provide certainty for our operations,” Beacham said.