26 July 2022

Clean cars don't need big batteries - here are your options beyond 2035's fossil fuel ban

| James Coleman
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Hydrogen refuelling station

Hydrogen and biofuels are up-and-coming power sources for vehicles across the size spectrum. Photo: Supplied.

The ACT Government has set the end of the fossil fuel age at 2035 – from that date, you won’t be able to register new fossil-fuel-powered cars in the ACT. New cars will have to be zero-emission vehicles, with an emphasis on battery-electric vehicles (BEVs).

But are there other ways? The short answer is yes.

The ACT was the first to heavily invest in hydrogen, adding 20 Hyundai NEXOs to the government fleet in March 2021.

Shortly afterwards, ActewAGL opened Australia’s first hydrogen refuelling station in Fyshwick. In May this year, CIT kicked off a new training program for electric and hydrogen vehicle mechanics to ensure we have the skills down pat.

Over the border, the NSW Government has now partnered with the Victorian Government to bring hydrogen to Australia’s roads, starting with the Hume Highway.

READ ALSO New petrol cars to be banned from 2035 as ACT waves goodbye to fossil fuels

NSW Treasurer and Minister for Energy Matt Kean said applications are now open for $20 million in grant funding to support hydrogen-powered trucking along Australia’s busiest freight corridor.

“This initiative aims to show the potential of renewable hydrogen for heavy vehicles with the goal of transitioning the freight sector to zero emissions energy sources,” Mr Kean said.

The two state governments have each invested $10 million into the ‘Hume Hydrogen Highway’ to fund four refuelling stations along the highway and approximately 25 hydrogen-powered trucks.

Grant applications close on 22 October, with construction to be completed by 2026.

Robert Edwards is chair of the National Hydrogen Training Committee and director of H2 Networks, a Canberra-based hydrogen equipment business. He says hydrogen fuel cells and networks are only about five to 10 years away – “further ahead than many give it credit for”.

“Hydrogen fuel cell technology is proven – it’s been around for a long time,” he says.

READ ALSO Monaro mess proves traffic lights are lazy fix to road planning problem

Hydrogen-powered vehicles still need a battery because the hydrogen fuel cells can’t create power fast enough on their own. By acting as a temporary storehouse, the battery can discharge more kilowatts at once.

But due to its smaller role, a hydrogen vehicle’s battery can be much smaller and therefore lighter than in a BEV. Not only does this mean less lithium and other rare earth minerals are needed, but also less power is needed to get the vehicle up to speed.

This blend has made hydrogen the ideal clean option for heavy vehicles, such as trucks, buses and trains. And that’s largely where it has stayed – Hyundai and Toyota are the only mainstream brands to experiment with hydrogen cars. But Richard sees potential for more.

Hydrogen refuelling station

The hydrogen-powered Hyundai NEXO outside the Fyshwick refuelling station. Photo: Supplied.

“The average small SUV requires 7 litres of diesel per 100 km travelled, as opposed to one kilogram of hydrogen per 100 km travelled,” he says.

“Therefore, green hydrogen needs to retail for around $13 per kilogram to be on par with diesel … It’s comparable right now.”

Robert welcomes more investments, like that from the NSW Government.

“There’s a lot of money going into green hydrogen production, but it’s no good doing that when nobody is using it. The fact the government is doing something now will start to balance out that equation and make hydrogen more viable.”

READ ALSO Let’s get real: how easy is it to drive an EV from Canberra to Sydney?

But even before we drive home the last nail in the internal-combustion coffin, German car manufacturer Porsche has announced plans to start making biofuels in Tasmania.

The 250-megawatt Tasmania Carbon Neutral eFuel Plant promises to produce more than 100 million litres of carbon-neutral biofuels annually, with the ability to pump out up to 190 tonnes a day once it starts up halfway through 2026.

Biofuel combines CO2 from the atmosphere with hydrogen to create a fuel that will work in existing internal combustion engines, emitting that same amount of CO2 in the process.

Graham Gulson oversees Porsche Centre Canberra and says this will give long-distance drivers and motoring enthusiasts the ability to keep buying new engines beyond 2035.

“The push for electric cars is there because we want to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions – and this does that,” he says.

“Anything that continues to give consumers choice is a great thing.”

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Now if we could only attach something to the hydrogen to make it liquid at room temperature and easier to handle…. like a hydro carbon.

CO2 emissions just need more living things on the planet to recycle.
CO2 emissions are measured per capita. There is only two parts to this, number of people and CO2 emissions. However seems the whole world is only fixated at part of the equation.

If we want to halve our emissions we should all aim to have 10 children. Our targets will be met in 8-18 months.

CO2 emissions favor countries that have more residents living in poverty and higher run-away populations.

It all counts to reducing emissions.
There are environmental pollutants to producing both types of vehicles but the exhaust emissions are gone, the emissions involved in extracting, refining, importing and transporting the fuel all over the country are gone. Oil changes every 10K or so are gone. Emissions in cities are drastically reduced so air quality improves.
Bring it on!!!

Mis-calculated tendentious rubbish. See my comment on your other link to this.

Why did it have to be this TED talk video again. *facepalm*

There’s numerous actual research studies and sources showing comparisons that are not remotely close to what this guys unsourced claims from a few years ago are but this article from Forbes pulls it apart in a fairly easy to understand way.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesmorris/2022/06/18/we-need-to-measure-total-lifecycle-emissions-for-cars–but-evs-still-win/

It’s also interesting that even if you took his wrong information at face value, the clear way to improve carbon outputs would be to transition the electricity grid to renewable energy faster to lower EV emission footprints.

So after 2035 you will be able to buy a biofuel powered vehicle and run it on a fossil fuel?

What happened to ethanol. As far as I know E85 is only sold in one ACT location.

Same question about biodiesel. Have biofuels been pushed out by the fossil fuel industry?

It a really just a case of choosing your poison and how you want to be taxed.

The carbon cost of any vehicle starts at mining, runs thru manufacturing, distribution and delivery, lifetime running, including maintenance ( plus the financial cost of replacement batteries) and finally, scrapping or recycling. To say that BEV (or Hydrogen) are carbon-free is a fallacy.

Supply and demand will continue to push the escalating cost of Lithium, meaning a “cheap” BEV may be just an illusional dream.

If anyone thinks that Governments are going to allow all of those petroleum-based taxes to disappear; they are dreaming. Just look at the debate about how to reinstate the 22 cents temporary fuel tax cut, given it’s impact on the cost of living and the need to reduce the budget deficit.

Lost fuel tax revenue will be replaced by either “Refueling” taxes, which will be easy with Hydrogen because you can’t make your own or “Refueling” and distance-based registration levies for BEVs.

As for those who can’t afford a new BEV or Hydrogen car and there are huge numbers of us, all I can say is keep your My Way card topped up.

“To say that BEV (or Hydrogen) are carbon-free is a fallacy”

Can’t see anyone saying that. But they are already better than ICE vehicles and improving iteratively with every new generation of vehicles.

In the same exact way that improvements were made to ICE vehicles over the decades.

“Supply and demand will continue to push the escalating cost of Lithium, meaning a “cheap” BEV may be just an illusional dream.”

Except EV prices have trended down constantly and there are multiple battery technologies that are available and constantly improving.

Interesting that you also don’t mention the ever increasing cost of fuel to run ICE vehicles. Perhaps once we stop externalising all the costs, private transport in general isn’t very cheap.

“If anyone thinks that Governments are going to allow all of those petroleum-based taxes to disappear; they are dreaming.”

I agree, I don’t think anyone is claiming this will happen. How else would we pay for the road networks that cars drive on?

“As for those who can’t afford a new BEV or Hydrogen car and there are huge numbers of us, all I can say is keep your My Way card topped up.”

So the same as those who can’t currently afford a car now. Fair enough.

G’Day, Chewy14,
I actually think that the full-on pro-BEV camp really only concentrate on their cost-free, using their panels, free-NRMA charging etc and how they are now living a carbon-free life. You never hear them acknowledging that probably the most environmental thing they could do would be to continue to run their old ICE car to the end of it’s life cycle, rather than generate new carbon costs in the manufacturing of a new car.

Yes, some EVs are trending down. (Tesla’s aren’t). There are new brands and models coming out of China that are cheaper. Many of these are smaller-sized cars, which in itself reduces cost. People can make their own judgements, but I’m not keen on an unproven brand out of China.

I’m not an ICE forever guy. The sooner we free ourselves from being dependent on foreign resources to fuel our transport, the better. (Pity we can’t build anything here!).

I just get annoyed when politicians spruik their ideology – talk of electric garbage trucks, 7 ESA electric trucks for > $12m, electric buses (when new diesels meet Euro 6 standards), Big Batteries and how the only stopping people from being clean is

EVangelists should always remember the average person can’t afford these clean dreams. Battery vehicles are too expensive, and hydrogen vehicles are even more expensive, as Drive estimates a new Nexo is $124,000.

Yes i agree hole heartedly with that i would try it if i could afford to, i cant even afford an electric lawn mower let alone a car.

That’s the biggest thing these articles need to mention. Take Hyundai as an example: an i30 petrol starts at $26k. The Ioniq which is roughly the same size but a sedan not a hatch (so already worse) and has a less powerful engine starts at $52k, twice the price. The Kona electric which uses the same drivetrain and a less powerful eninge as an i30 is $57k. Immediately you look at double the cost, and even if you consider ‘free’ electricity that extra $25k could buy 150,000kms of fuel (which in my case is ~20 years). When you start looking at Tesla, that’s $80k-150k. Not everyone has that kind of money to throw into a vehicle, and while it would be an “ideal world” to not rely on petrol cars unless electric vehicles reduce in cost significantly they just aren’t an option.

And I still remember the: ACT NOWaste – No Waste by 2010 Goal in 1996 … 😉 Just another Pipe-Dream.

Where is the electricity coming from? With internal combustion engines, there is no demand put on the electrical grid as power is stored chemically. With electric vehicles, the power will have to come from the grid. A typical electric car is the equivalent of 50 refrigerators. Do we have a plan for adding this much demand to the electric grid within 13 years, particularly when we are already suffering supply issues across the eastern states?

We aren’t really suffering supply issues at present, it was more around deliberate actions from generators withdrawing from the market during peak demand periods, due to poor policy directions from the previous federal government and flaws in the electricity market design. And a bit of attempted market manipulation thrown in.

Yes, Evs will require increases in generation capacity but they can also help the grid smooth demand peaks because they’ll mostly be charging at night. With increased smart metering, time of use charging will become almost universal.

“Do we have a plan for adding this much demand to the electric grid within 13 years,”

The 13 years period isn’t really a thing because that’s only an artificial date for new cars in the ACT at present. But the market can easily deliver the generation capacity as long as the Federal government puts in place directed policy that gives greater investment certainty and values the “availability” of generators to handle peak demand periods. There’s clearly money to be made in this space.

No issues at present because COAL can be burned 24×7.
Deliberate actions from the coal power station outages?
Wasn’t it the government that forced them to run at a loss but also said no to spend any money on maintaining them as at any point they could say.. Ah no more coal power.

No coal and high power costs will kill manufacturing in Australia and ship it all off to china. China will still continue to burn coal and “lower” their emissions though population increases.

13 year plan is more of an aspiration at least. ACT Gov is still buying ICEs.
I haven’t seen anything that ACT will not buy many more ICEs for the next 13 years.

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