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Hydrogen. Here’s the facts.



1. Hydrogen is safe

The science behind this is simple. Hydrogen is a gas that is lighter than air. This means if it’s accidentally released, it quickly rises and dissipates. So it wouldn’t contaminate the environment or pose a risk to humans if spilled or leaked.

If a fuel tank gets punctured in a hydrogen-powered car, the gas will immediately rise and concentration levels will fall - reducing the risk of harm. Hydrogen is no more dangerous than the fuel we already use when handled properly.


2. Hydrogen is a clean fuel

Hydrogen is non-toxic and only emits water when used as fuel. Meaning it doesn’t cause air pollution. But historically, the process used to extract hydrogen involved methane – producing both hydrogen and harmful greenhouse gases. So, it’s no wonder hydrogen has a reputation as a dirty fuel.

However the process has evolved. Electricity is now used to break water down into hydrogen and oxygen. And if the electricity comes from a renewable power source (like solar or wind), the process emits zero carbon and produces what is officially known as ‘green hydrogen’.


3. Hydrogen is becoming economically viable

Green hydrogen isn’t profitable…yet. The European Commission’s cost estimates are between $4NZD and $8NZD per kg, while the cost of hydrogen produced from fossil fuels is around $2.50NZD per kg. But electrolysers (systems that extract hydrogen from water) already cost 60% less than they did in 2012. With this number predicted to halve again by 2030.

As renewable energy prices fall, the cost of green hydrogen will also drop. In fact, forecasts predict that in less than a decade, green hydrogen will be holding its own against fossil-fuel-based hydrogen.


4. The infrastructure is in the works

It’s been said that the infrastructure necessary to support hydrogen is too expensive to build, but actually, it’s already happening. Meridian and Contact are considering producing green hydrogen on a large scale. A feasibility study is also underway to investigate whether hydrogen gas can be transported within New Zealand using existing natural gas pipelines. And Marsden Point, the country's sole oil refinery, has spent more than a year looking at the potential of new technologies – including solar and hydrogen.


5. Transporting hydrogen can be cost-effective

Natural gas pipelines are already set up and are likely to be able to move hydrogen gas with only minimal upgrades and costs. We know that transporting liquids or gases over hundreds of kilometres can be done by pipes with minimal energy input – less than 1% of the energy contained in the hydrogen fuel. As New Zealand is so remote globally, producing our own hydrogen makes a lot of sense. While shipping hydrogen does work, it’s best for very long distances. It takes a lot of energy to compress and cool the hydrogen to turn it into a liquid for transportation. Then it needs to be warmed up and turned back into gas on arrival.


6. Electric and hydrogen both have a part in our future

Did you know that some forms of transport can't be 100% electric? Airliners need enough energy onboard to travel thousands of miles. And cargo ships would struggle to cross oceans on battery power alone. But liquid hydrogen could be the solution to these long-haul problems as diesel engines can run directly on hydrogen with only minor modifications.

Vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells also have advantages over battery EVs on land. They can be refilled in minutes. And as hydrogen is lighter than air, it decreases overall weight and increases range.


7. Hydrogen is the fuel of the future

People have dreamed about the potential of hydrogen as a fuel since Victorian times. But unlike ready-to-burn fossil fuels, clean hydrogen isn’t freely available: energy is required to extract it from water.

However, now that renewable power has become cheap to create, the technology of electrolysers has matured and everyone has finally woken up to the dangers of greenhouse gases – we’re ready to get serious about hydrogen as a fuel source.


8. Using hydrogen prevents carbon emissions

Carbon emissions cause the release of greenhouse gases that have far-reaching environmental and health effects. They cause climate change by trapping heat and contribute to respiratory disease from smog and air pollution. Extreme weather, food supply disruptions and increased wildfires are just some of the other effects of climate change, which is proven to be caused by greenhouse gases.

But the only thing hydrogen emits is water. So, this clean alternative could play a huge part in slowing rising global temperatures.


9. Nothing changes at the pump

Refuelling a hydrogen car is pretty much the same as refuelling a petrol one. But the nozzle is shaped differently, as it’s designed to preserve pressure. Because unlike petrol, hydrogen isn’t energy dense, so it needs to be put into vehicles at high pressure to deliver adequate driving range. It takes about five minutes to fill a car with hydrogen. Simply lift the hose, pull back on the outer hose fitting, click it onto the vehicle's fuel nozzle and press ‘fill’.


10. We can make Hydrogen right here in Aotearoa

Here in New Zealand, we have a head start on the world as much of our energy supply already comes from renewable sources. Marsden Point has already approved the construction of a $37 million solar farm on 31 hectares, which will supply around 10% of NZ’s total electricity needs. If we can also capture extra power from hydro-dams and other renewable sources, we can store it here or sell it to other nations. We already have agreements in place with Japan, Germany and South Korea.