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It's all aboard the hydrogen bus as high-tech coach hits the road

Business

Australia’s first hydrogen fuel-cell electric coach has hit the road, with the Gold Coast-based distributor claiming it will make coach travel noise, smell and wobble-free.

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The coach was launched jointly by Gold Coast specialist vehicle importer and distributor BLK Auto in partnership with New York-based Hyzon Motors, which supplies zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell-powered commercial vehicles.

The first hydrogen coach has already been snapped up by a West Australian-based mining company, with nine more coaches in production and expected to be on road by Christmas, ramping up the nation’s switch to hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Hyzon Head of Special Projects, Simon Coburn, said the zero-emission, fuel cell electric commercial coach fleet were rolling out from the Gold Coast headquarters.

“It is real, it’s here,” Coburn said. “There’s no reason we can’t produce hundreds of these.”

“We’re hoping when people get a chance to ride on this, they’ll realise how nice coach travel can be,” he said.

“Not only is there not the noise of a diesel engine, but there also isn’t the vibrations, or the smell. You may have been around a coach before and got caught in a diesel exhaust cloud. This doesn’t have one. It’s quiet and calm and smooth and people can relax and sleep. We think it might change people’s impression of coach travel.”

Coburn said hydrogen-powered vehicles would soon become “as commonplace as mobile phones”, with coaches joining cars, buses, trucks and even utes in the hydrogen revolution.

Coaches are different from buses as they are a step up in size and have a raised floor, all passengers are seated, and coaches are deployed on longer-haul routes.

When it comes to shorter distance travel, the State government has already committed that by 2025 every new urban bus added to the south-east Queensland fleet will be zero-emission.

In Emerald, in central Queensland, one regional transport service has opted to ditch diesel-powered buses completely and switch to hydrogen fuel cell electric ones in what it says is an Australian-first for a private company.

Hydrogen utes are also in production with Australian hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle start-up company H2X Global planning to launch its Warrego Ute on the Gold Coast in November. It’s offering deliveries from April 2022.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation today also announced it would inject more than $12 million in its first investment through the Advancing Hydrogen Fund to help produce the world’s heaviest hydrogen fuel cell electric trucks.

The trucks, and accompanying refuelling infrastructure, will be used to deliver zinc ore from Townsville Port to the Sun Metals Refinery 15 kilometres down the road.

“When people realise it’s easy living with hydrogen, it will become normalised…and they’ll find hydrogen just slips into their life and they won’t be able to remember when it started,” Coburn said.

“With scale, the costs come down and you get familiarity and confidence. Everyone will start talking about hydrogen in the same way that we talk about mobile phones.”

The hydrogen coach, which seats 50 passengers, has a range of up to 700km and power of 350 kilowatts, is designed to meet Australian standards and includes an onboard electric air-conditioning system.

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said the innovation reflected the city’s economic expansion.

“Right now, construction is booming yet tourism has significant Covid-related challenges. This creates a two-speed economy,” Tate said.

“By broadening our economy and encouraging innovation like this helps to ensure future employment for more Gold Coasters.

“I’m thrilled to see the smartest minds in Australia come together to design and build the nation’s first hydrogen fuel cell coach. This project shows we are a serious player when it comes to creating more energy, and environmentally, friendly transport modes.”

 

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