Green hydrogen could be fuel of future for heavy transport in New Zealand

Work is underway to help decarbonise heavy transport using green hydrogen made in New Zealand.

The transport sector currently produces almost half of New Zealand's CO2 emissions, so if we're to address the climate crisis, cutting emissions from transport is vital.

Construction of a state-of-the-art green hydrogen production and fast-refuelling facility will soon get underway by the entrance of Ports of Auckland.

Rosie Mercer, the general manager of sustainability at the Ports of Auckland, thinks green hydrogen is the fuel of the future for heavy transport.

"Primarily we're trying to reduce our carbon emissions but the great thing about these hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is they will also improve air quality and reduce noise pollution," she says.

It'll fuel trucks as well as buses and container handling equipment.

The problem with heavy transport is that it produces a lot of carbon, a lot of noise and they vehicles are smelly. Green Hydrogen addresses all three problems.

Hydrogen is made by splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen using an electrolyser.  Green hydrogen is produced using renewable electricity, making it the most environmentally friendly kind.

A Hyundai Xcient is the first hydrogen fuel cell truck to arrive in New Zealand and it'll be one of five taking part in a demonstration to show how they could be used to transport freight.

"The great thing with Hydrogen trucks is for every 80,000km they travel, they're saving 50 tonnes of CO2," says Andy Sinclar, Hyundai NZ general manager.

That's a lot. A tank of hydrogen can get them 400km, but they'll need to refuel.

New Zealand's first green hydrogen plant has just been opened in Taupo using electricity generated by geothermal power. Hiringa Energy is also building a series of fuelling points, starting in Hamilton, Palmerston North, Auckland and Tauranga.

"Those first four stations amazingly will unlock about 100 percent of the North Island freight routes straight away we'll be able to have a big impact," says Andrew Clennett, the Hiringa Energy chief executive.

"We've got to remember, one of these heavy trucks, it's like taking 150 cars off the road, just one truck, so it's a very high impact place to go."

In Southland, Meridian and Contact are exploring plans for the world's first large-scale green hydrogen plant at Tiwai Point.

"This 2020 period is about really testing out this technology because there are still questions that people ask and we want to prove and show that we've done the due diligence that we're getting the right technology into our fleet in the 2030s," says Mercer.