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Hydrogen fuel cell trucks for NZ

Hydrogen fuel cell trucks for NZ

NZ Truck & Driver News

 August 2020   
Truck and trailer leasing and rental giant TR Group and Taranaki-based Hiringa Energy plan to introduce hydrogen fuel cell electric heavy trucks in New Zealand. 

An agreement between the two will combine Hiringa's expertise in producing "green" hydrogen and plans to create a nationwide refuelling network….and TR's dominance in the heavy transport hire market.

Together they will offer packages to transport operators seeking to reduce the carbon footprint of their activities.

No clear timeframe has been announced, but the first units are expected to be in service next year.

TR Group general manager Brendan King has been involved with the project from the outset, and sees it as an exciting prospect for the company: "Basically, it's about doing what we can to help with the decarbonisation of the transport network, and staying up with the latest technology. 

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Truck and trailer leasing and rental giant TR Group and Taranaki-based Hiringa Energy plan to introduce hydrogen fuel cell electric heavy trucks in New Zealand. 
An agreement between the two will combine Hiringa's expertise in producing "green" hydrogen and plans to create a nationwide refuelling network….and TR's dominance in the heavy transport hire market.
Together they will offer packages to transport operators seeking to reduce the carbon footprint of their activities.
No clear timeframe has been announced, but the first units are expected to be in service next year.
TR Group general manager Brendan King has been involved with the project from the outset, and sees it as an exciting prospect for the company: "Basically, it's about doing what we can to help with the decarbonisation of the transport network, and staying up with the latest technology. 
"We are keen to learn all we can about it – to trial the innovations. We have to show some leadership in the industry. We can learn on behalf of our customers, and find out what works and what doesn't. That way we can pass the results on.
"Answers to questions about longevity, reliability and maintenance costs can only be found in practice."
Hyundai is an obvious candidate as an OEM supplier for the vehicles, having just begun delivery of its XCIENT hydrogen fuel cell heavy truck in Europe. Currently the XCIENT has a 258 horsepower/192 kilowatts rating and an upper GVM limit of 36 tonnes, but Hyundai is understood to be working on bigger and more powerful 6x4 and 8x4 variants. See story on the Hyundai milestone on Page 6.
King says that TR will want trucks that will be able to operate up to 50t and adds: "We are in discussions with Hyundai and they are interested, but how it will pan out we can't tell at the moment.
"There are also several smaller groups who are in the business of repowering diesel trucks with fuel cell drivetrains. We are investigating them as well, though I am not prepared to go into too many details at this stage."
Hiringa Energy cofounders, CEO Andrew Clennett and CTO Dan Kahn, see the tieup with TR Group as a perfect way to introduce clean energy to the road transport sector. 
As Clennett puts it: "Heavy transport is ideally suited for the early adoption of hydrogen fuel cells, so that's what we are focusing on. 
"Compared with battery electric, fuel cells offer a much better range per fill, weigh less, and have a refill time that is quicker even than conventional diesel."
Hiringa Energy and Ballance Agri-Nutrients are already in a joint-venture partnership to create a renewable hydrogen hub in South Taranaki. The project plans to construct wind turbines to supply electricity directly to Ballance's Kapuni site, where it will be used to produce hydrogen by electrolysis. 
The hydrogen then becomes a feedstock for the production of urea for fertiliser, but can also be used in vehicle fuel cells.
Regional transportation of the hydrogen will be via custom tankers, Clennett adds: "We will own the tanks, but we have an agreement with TIL to cart them. 
"However, Kapuni will not be our only production site. Our plan is also to set up electrolysis units at some of the refuelling locations, and use offpeak electricity to produce the hydrogen onsite."
Kahn says Hiringa is building a relationship with the Waitomo Group, and plans to be using its existing sites as refuelling stations: "They are not the only distributor/retailers in the market, but we find them really positive to work with, and since they have an emphasis on servicing the heavy transport sector it makes for an ideal fit."
The first of four filling stations is planned to be in operation by Q2 next year. After that the schedule calls for eight sites by 2022 at the latest, and 24 by 2025.
The original four sites will cover the North Island heartland – Te Rapa, Hamilton, Tauranga, Manawatu and Taranaki. They will be followed by facilities in South Auckland, Taupo, Wellington and Christchurch...ensuring near-nationwide coverage.
The partners in the venture agree that fuel cells have yet to match conventional diesel powertrains for price, but Andrew Clennett feels that cost parity for transport operators could be achieved within five years, especially if the technology is supported by Government intervention….such as subsidies or reduced road user charges. 
Adds Dan Kahn: "It's all about showing the international community what can be done with the introduction of new technologies. We have an almost unique situation in NZ, with a well-developed infrastructure and supportive government policies. Despite our size, we are ideally placed to be at the forefront of these innovations."  

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