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CSIRO bullish on hydrogen as fuel alternative

Electric vehicle submission sees natural gas working in shorter term for trucks


The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has nailed its colours to the mast of hydrogen gas for future transport propulsion, along with other uses, in its submission to the Senate Select Committee on Electric Vehicles.

The independent Australian federal government agency is already involved in electric power and alternative fuels  as the battle for emission-less transport, involving hydrogen-focused fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) and battery electric vehicles (EV) including for trucks, continues to gain heat.

But for commercial transport, the CSIRO indicates more conventional gas and other efficiencies will dominate as alternatives in the medium term.

In the meantime, it sees the nation’s natural advantages giving it a leg-up for hydrogen industry developments.

“Australia’s role and opportunities in emerging hydrogen energy industries have been considered and through the use of a range of scenarios for both domestic transport and stationary energy applications as well as from the perspective of Australia potentially becoming a major global exporter of renewable energy using various hydrogen carriers,” the CSIRO submission, written by low emissions technology research director Dr David Harris and electric machines team leader Dr Howard Lovatt, states.

Read about Australian research into hydrogen fuel, here

Despite that, the organisation foresees FCEV-EV impacts on general transport likely to take decades and commercial transport emissions reductions more likely to come from alternative fuels.

“In 2015, the road transport sector was responsible for 85 per cent of emissions,” its submission notes.

“Most of the potential abatement in this sector in 2030 is likely to stem from vehicle efficiency improvements, which can offset projected growth in transport demand.

“Vehicle efficiency improvements include fuel switching (biofuels, compressed natural gas and LNG in freight), uptake of electric vehicles and fuel cell electric vehicles and improvements to fuel economy in internal combustion engines.

“However, switching to EVs and FCEVs is not expected to have a big impact by 2030 on reducing transport emissions but this is anticipated to increase by 2050.

“Reductions in demand for road transport also reduces emissions; technologies expected to achieve this are mode shifting to public transport, use of bicycles and improved urban design.

“Improved logistics and routing, mode shifting and innovative business models could result in demand reduction in freight.”

CSIRO says it is working on technologies relevant to electric vehicles and alternative fuels by:

  • looking at the potential benefits of transition to renewable and low emissions fuels for transport applications including work relevant to FCEV and battery EV
  • supporting the development of relevant supply chains including hydrogen fuels, and second-life applications and recycling for batteries
  • activities throughout the entire value chain of lithium batteries, from mining and resource production, battery development, battery applications and second-life and end-of-life management
  • developing ionic liquids as an electrolyte to improving battery safety, and next-generation batteries using lithium sulphur that could halve the weight of a current car battery
  • developing renewable technologies, cleaner coal utilisation technologies, smart grid and load management all of which can be utilised to find targeted solutions to the concerns of how increased electric vehicle use could impact electricity network infrastructure.

The committee had been due to report today but that deadline has been postponed to December 4 and it will conduct another public hearing tomorrow in Canberra.

Submissions to the committee can be found here.



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