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.

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

The facility has been closed for more than a year

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

Comments (1)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    The politicians and business interests really do like hydrogen!!! It has that air of scientific simplicity; and they don’t do complex science, or even much simple, come to that.

    But a little reality. Volume for volume, hydrogen contains only one third of the energy of methane. Thus the domestic central heating "boiler" will consume three times as much. Costs??????

    Perhaps even more importantly, hydrogen does not occur naturally. It has to be manufactured. This process, by whatever route will never be able to yield a product which give more energy when used, than that which has been used to produce it. Methane is ready made for us, drill a hole in the ground. The ratio of energy used to obtain it is thousands of times less than that obtained from its use – a "low carbon" bargain.

    It is also awkward to handle, store, has very wide explosive limits and requires special materials of construction in its handling. But, yes, it burns very cleanly, and at a high temperature.

    Production is simple in principle, but not in practice. A process little heard of in political and business circles is the so-called iodine/sulphur process, of interest because it could be directly driven by the high temperature reactor; up to ~900oC.

    You don’t get owt for nowt!! Certainly not with hydrogen.

    Mention is made of the IPCC predictions of global temperatures later in the century. These mathematical models, and there are over 150 or so of them, all use an Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (qv) of between 3 and 3.4. Detailed statistical examination of the values of this parameter over the last thirty years or so reveal that to fit reality it should be 1-1.5. This makes a huge difference to the forecasts of overwhelming disaster. But this is not good for business.

    Richard Phillips

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