Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are an emerging technology in Australia with benefits such as fast refuelling, no harmful tailpipe emissions and long range.
Hydrogen fuel cells convert fuel into energy through an electrochemical reaction with hydrogen gas and oxygen. This produces electricity, which powers the electric motor that drives the car.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles only produce tailpipe water vapour and heat, meaning they produce zero noxious and greenhouse gas emissions.
However, the production of hydrogen fuel may produce noxious or greenhouse gas emissions if the hydrogen is made from coal or gas and these gases are not captured and stored. ‘Green’ hydrogen can be produced by extracting hydrogen from water through a process called electrolysing which uses renewable electricity.
Hydrogen fuel cells are lighter than the batteries used in electric vehicles and take less than 5 minutes to refuel. This could make them more suitable for long distance and commercial vehicle operations, such as fleet and heavy vehicle use.
There are currently 2 hydrogen fuel cell vehicle models approved for use in Australia from Toyota and Hyundai. However, these are available for special order only and not for everyday sale and use.
A number of governments in Australia have announced plans for hydrogen fuel cell vehicle projects, including the construction of electrolysers, funding to support the construction of hydrogen refuelling stations and trials of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in their fleets.
The Australian Design Rules for measuring fuel consumption and emissions do not currently apply to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Data for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be added to the Green Vehicle Guide if and when these requirements are updated.