24 Apr 2024

Hydrogen fuelling station opens in South Auckland

10:24 am on 24 April 2024

New Zealand is one step closer to low-emissions road freight with the opening of a hydrogen fuelling station in South Auckland yesterday.

The Wiri fuel station is one of three in the North Island and has the capacity to power the big semi-trucks used for heavy road freight.

A bus, a NZ Post delivery truck and a big rig were among the first vehicles to fuel up - but the trucking industry needs a bigger hydrogen-powered fleet to use it.

Andrew Clennett is the co-founder and chief executive of Hiringa, the company behind the hydrogen network.

Hydrogen pump

The hydrogen is manufactured on-site using renewable electricity. Photo: Marika Khabazi

"We can do up to 60 trucks from this station, and that's taking 60 trucks off the road. Each truck is equivalent to taking between 100 and 150 cars off the road," he said.

The hydrogen is manufactured on-site using renewable electricity, with an efficiency of 65-68 percent.

Long-haul trucks make up just 4 percent of the fleet, but 25 percent of heavy vehicle emissions, Clennett said.

But that would change if more trucks used hydrogen, which does not emit climate-damaging carbon like diesel or petrol.

"The alignment of this technology means that the trucks that are doing the most kilometres, that have the most emissions, because they're on the road all the time, we're effectively replacing those biggest trucks," Clennett said.

The fuel pumps can fill a hydrogen-powered truck in 15 minutes.

Hydrogen pump

Photo: Marika Khabazi

Expansion plans

The Wiri station is one of three hydrogen pumps at Waitomo fuel stations, and there are plans for more - and even expanding into zero-emissions ship fuel.

"Where we have trucks is where need stations, so the state highway network, we need to get north to south. Up near Whangārei, down on the way to Wellington, Taupō, across to Hawkes Bay, we need to cover north-west-east-south.

"And we're also doing some exciting work in the South Island."

There was also interest in New Zealand's advances into hydrogen-powered fright from overseas - the Japan ambassador was present at the opening.

"Companies like what we're doing and a country like here is a really good test bed of these ecosystems. Effectively, it's a business model we're developing that they're very interested to unlock in their society."

Minister for Transport and Energy Simeon Brown cut the ribbon at the new station - and provided the company with a $5 million grant and an $11 million loan to support the current three fuelling stations and build one more.

"This is the start of a network. It allows companies to be able to invest in hydrogen trucks more easily, and be able to test how they operate on New Zealand roads," he said.

Hydrogen pump

Photo: Marika Khabazi

Brown said the government was committed to growing hydrogen energy and even exploring extraction of naturally-occurring hydrogen gas.

"There is a possible natural hydrogen resources that need to be explored, that's a potential huge opportunity for New Zealand," he said.

Currently, there are only two trucks in the country that can use the hydrogen pumps in Wiri.

Waitomo Group chief executive Simon Parham, says trucking companies are excited about hydrogen fuel - but they need government support to build a hydrogen-powered fleet.

"At the moment, tough economic times, the natural tendency is for business to sweat some of their older assets. We really want to see that incentive come from central government to help get those trucks on the road whether it's 10, whether it's 50, going to 100 - that would be the dream."

Hydrogen pump

Photo: Marika Khabazi

Brown could not say how the government might further support the hydrogen industry.

"We can't confirm anything at this stage, ultimately there's a number of opportunities, but we're here to sort of celebrate the start of this network.

"We need to have an abundant supply of renewable energy to unlock that potential, and that's the government's primary focus."

For now, there's one more hydrogen fuel station to be built in Tauranga, and Hiringa plans to expand its hydrogen network through Australasia.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs