Old Toyota manufacturing plant set to re-open as hydrogen 'hub'

A decommissioned manufacturing plant, previously used by Toyota to make combustion engine vehicles, is set to re-open as a hydrogen production and fuelling facility, the carmaker has confirmed.

The facility has been closed for more than a year, with regeneration set to cost $7.4m AUD

The facility has been closed for more than a year, with regeneration set to cost $7.4m AUD

The facility, in Altona in Australia, is set to produce at least 60kg of renewable hydrogen every day once it is fully operational, with Toyota set to invest in onsite solar facilities and battery storage to power the production of the resource. It already plays host to a 500kW rooftop solar array.

Hydrogen at the industrial-scale site will be generated through electrolysis, before being compressed and stored. Toyota has confirmed that the end product will be suitable for both energy and mobility applications.

The site will additionally play host to the Victoria region’s first hydrogen refuelling facility for fuel cell vehicles. Such vehicles work by feeding compressed hydrogen gas into hydrogen fuel cells, where it is combined with oxygen from the air in a process that produces water as well as electricity.

Toyota confirmed the plans after receiving confirmation from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena) this week that the body will provide AUD $3.1m of funding for the project. Overall, the redevelopment of the facility, which closed in 2017, is expected to cost AUD $7.4m.

“Hydrogen has the potential to play a pivotal role in the future because it can be used to store and transport energy from wind, solar and other renewable sources to power many things, including vehicles like the Toyota Mirai fuel cell electric vehicle,” Toyota Australia’s chief executive and president Matt Callachor said.

“But right now, the biggest factor to the success of hydrogen being widely available is the lack of infrastructure.”

A date for when work to convert the plant will begin has not yet been unveiled and is subject to a public consultation by the Morrison government. The authority is currently developing a national strategy for hydrogen, in partnership with key scientists and organisations across Australia’s public and private sectors.

A hydrogen revolution?

Hydrogen as a fuel is widely regarded as an emerging technology, but one which could play a crucial role in the low-carbon transition on global, national and local levels.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), for example, recently called for all UK corporates, politicians and members of the public to be educated about the benefits and limitations of hydrogen technology in the wake of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recent findings into the severe impacts of global warming.

Specifically, the body’s chief executive Chris Stark has argued that hydrogen -  if coupled with energy efficiency technologies, low-carbon power generators, EVs and hybrid-electric heat pump systems – could make a “very important contribution” to the low-carbon transition in developed nations such as the UK.

While the business case for hydrogen as a fuel is still in its infancy, the early signs of a “hydrogen revolution” are brewing across the globe. In the transport sector, hydrogen vehicles have been supported by the likes of brewer AB InBev, oil and gas major Shell and waste management firm Veolia, while Apple and Google’s parent firm Alphabet is now selling hydrogen mobility technologies themselves.

As for carmakers, the likes of Daimler, Hyundai and Nikola Motor have all joined Toyota in bolstering their funding for hydrogen technologies in recent times.  

Toyota’s hydrogen investments form part of its pledge achieve “net-zero” carbon emissions across all of its sites and vehicles by 2050 – an ambition which builds on the success of its Mirai model, which was the first commercially-available hydrogen-powered car in Europe.

In order to expand its zero-emission vehicle portfolio, the firm recently announced a Partnership with Panasonic, which will focus on the development of the next generation of batteries and fuel cells. This technology will be showcased at the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games in Tokyo.

Sarah George


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