The march towards alternative fuel sources to power vehicles usually sees electricity grab the headlines. But some companies like Hyundai and Toyota are forging ahead with plans to power cars with hydrogen. Earlier this year we told you about the Hyundai Nexo SUV that was on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Back in 2016 the ACT Government initiated a project that saw 20 orders placed for Australia’s first hydrogen powered cars. This year they’re expected to be used at the Hornsdale Windfarm and refuelled at the Renewable Transport Fuels Test Birth.

But there’s a couple of issues when it comes to using hydrogen to power vehicles, making it and transporting it safely. The CSIRO believe new technology may have unlocked a more efficient way of transporting bulk hydrogen in the form of liquid ammonia. CSIRO Chief Executive Larry Marshall has already taken for a spin in Hyundai’s Nexo and a Toyota Mirai that were powered by ultra-high purity hydrogen, made in Queensland using CSIRO’s membrane technology.

The collaboration with gas company BOC has seen the development of a membrane that separates hydrogen from ammonia, while blocking all other gases. The technology via a modular unit has the ability to link hydrogen production, distribution and delivery. Importantly the unit can be used at, or near a refuelling station.

It’s claimed that recent advances in solar and electrochemical technologies will lead to renewable hydrogen production becoming more competitive with typical fossil fuel-based production,

“This is a watershed moment for energy, and we look forward to applying CSIRO innovation to enable this exciting renewably-sourced fuel and energy storage medium a smoother path to market,” CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said.

“I’m delighted to see strong collaboration and the application of CSIRO know-how to what is a key part of the overall energy mix.”

BOC Sales and Marketing Director Bruce Currie clearly sees the potential to plug a technology hole via the new technology.

“BOC’s innovative engineering team are proud to be collaborating with CSIRO researchers on this technology breakthrough, as we focus on advancing the hydrogen economy and global transition towards clean hydrogen for mobility and energy,” Mr Currie said.

After the successful program the CSRIO has plans to expand the concept both here and abroad. The project was funded by a $1.7 million grant from the Science and Industry Endowment Fund, which was matched by CSIRO.

Will this be an export boom for Australia? Time will tell.