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It’s time to extract the Hydrogen opportunity for New Zealand


By Neeraj Lala, Toyota NZ CEO

Hydrogen has the potential to play a key role as we transition to a low carbon economy and this includes a wide range of sectors, not just transport.

Unlocking the potential that hydrogen offers New Zealand as a zero-carbon fuel and export revenue stream will need a collaborative effort between policy makers and the public-private sector like we have never seen before in this country.

Already we produce and use hydrogen in New Zealand to produce fertiliser for use across our agriculture industry, and to make methanol for use in chemical derivatives that are used to produce everyday products such as building materials, foam, resins, plastics and a variety of health and pharmaceutical products.

We now have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to broaden the scope of hydrogen use, accelerate our hydrogen eco-system and support investment in large scale ‘green’ hydrogen production.

While the idea of a ‘Think Big’ project may worry those with long memories of the 1970s and somewhat dubious government infrastructure projects, it is that type of thinking that is needed to get prepared, skilled up and ready to unlock the hydrogen potential in NZ.

New Zealand can be a global leader in hydrogen technology and innovation, which will support the production of green hydrogen for both domestic use and export opportunities, beyond what we can imagine.

It will require a staged approach with collaborative partnerships involving both private sector and Government, as well as working with the international hydrogen leaders across the supply chain. The challenge for New Zealand is finding and investing in the right initiatives to accelerate this technology.

At Toyota we believe we have the capability to help grow and extract the maximum value of hydrogen for the NZ economy.  Our Fuel Cell Technology has the potential to create a new economy beyond transport to help achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. 

Toyota is at the forefront of the exploration of the potential of hydrogen technology, and not just for the light vehicle fleet. While Toyota does have a hydrogen car, the Mirai, in our view full battery electric and hybrid technology is the best pathway to achieve a low emission light vehicle fleet as we navigate towards the introduction of tough carbon emissions standards. We also see many opportunities for hydrogen in the wider economy that we believe will add considerable social impact to our society.

This country has an abundance of renewable energy that could be sustainably used to produce green hydrogen as a next generation fuel. Hydrogen produced from renewable energy is known as ‘green hydrogen’ as there are minimal carbon dioxide emissions if it produced using renewably generated electricity such as solar panels, wind turbines and water-powered turbines. Long term, hydrogen could play an essential role in our country’s energy economy.

The life cycle of green hydrogen is a journey from water and back to water. It can be created from renewable energy generated from water, the sun or wind. This circular feature of green hydrogen mirrors Toyota’s intent to move its business further towards the circular economy. As the leading automotive supplier in New Zealand with one in every four cars on the roads we can explore new innovations and initiatives to accelerate change in this space.

With green hydrogen we have opportunities to create new jobs, convert heavy transport away from fossil fuels, enhance our security of electricity supply and even create significant export revenue.

A fuel stack is the heart of a hydrogen powertrain. The stack refers to the cluster of fuel cells that use an electrochemical reaction to produce electricity from a chemical fuel, in this case hydrogen. Fuel stacks are likely to have increasing land and marine transport uses such as the Emirates Team New Zealand hydrogen fuel cell-powered chase boats.

Our recent collaboration with our long-term partners, Emirates Team New Zealand on the hydrogen fuel-cell powered boats, show the potential for this technology. Not only does it demonstrate the capability and versatility of our hydrogen fuel cell stack technology, but also the ability to apply to alternative mobility or our world class marine industry.

We see a future opportunity for ourselves as a distributor of hydrogen fuel stack technology for hydrogen trucks and other industrial uses. For example, we could supply the Department of Conservation with fuel stacks to generate electricity in the field instead of the diesel gensets they currently use. We are also exploring partnerships with local manufacturers of green hydrogen with a view to supplying kiwi-made green hydrogen to customers within our global network.

Toyota is working on a modular fuel stack system that can be used in various applications. The compact fuel stack module includes the fuel cell stack and related components that handle air supply, hydrogen supply, cooling, and power control.

Hydrogen can store more energy in less weight, making fuel stacks suitable for vehicles with heavy payloads and long ranges. Fast refuelling also benefits commercial fleets and other vehicles in near-continuous use such as straddle carriers, forklifts, taxis, and car-sharing schemes.

Toyota New Zealand intends to be a key player in the hydrogen ecosystem in New Zealand. We will be drawing on our parent’s technological development of hydrogen fuel stacks, hydrogen storage tanks, fuel cell vehicles and fuel delivery systems. Our intention is to partner with interested parties beyond the automotive industry.

New Zealand is an ideal place, with our renewable energy and resourceful culture, to test new ideas and innovate for a better world. Our interest in hydrogen is about keeping our eyes open to a range of possibilities. It is more important to adapt to changes in the future than trying to predict the future. With the pace of change accelerating due to technological innovation, predicting the future becomes increasingly difficult.

Hydrogen offers huge potential and Toyota is committed to building and growing a new hydrogen economy in New Zealand.