ABC: Hydrogen Fuel Breakthrough

From the ABC, good news about a real competitor to petrol driven cars, hydrogen. Electric cars really aren’t a starter once you get outside the major cities, but a car fuelled by hydrogen with a range of 800 km and a re-fuel time similar to petrol is a real possibility.

Hydrogen fuel breakthrough in Queensland could fire up massive new export market


Two cars powered by hydrogen derived from ammonia will be tested in Brisbane today thanks to a Queensland breakthrough that CSIRO researchers say could turn Australia into a renewable energy superpower.

CSIRO principal research scientist Michael Dolan said it was a very exciting day for a project that has been a decade in the making.

“We started out with what we thought was a good idea, it is exciting to see it on the cusp of commercial deployment,” he said.

For the past decade, researchers have worked on producing ultra-high purity hydrogen using a unique membrane technology.

The membrane breakthrough will allow hydrogen to be safely transported and used as a mass production energy source.

“We are certainly the first to demonstrate the production of very clean hydrogen from ammonia,” Dr Dolan said.

“Today is the very first time in the world that hydrogen cars have been fuelled with a fuel derived from ammonia — carbon-free fuel.”

Program leader David Harris said Australia has a huge source of renewable energy — sunlight and wind — that can be utilised to produce hydrogen.

But the highly flammable element is difficult to ship long distances because of its low density.

CSIRO researchers found a way to turn Australian-made hydrogen into ammonia, meaning it could be shipped safely to the mass market of Asia.

It is converted back into hydrogen using their membrane, then pumped into hydrogen-powered cars.

As of now, there are only five such cars in Australia, but there are tens of thousands across Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

“The key here is we can transport the hydrogen from the place where it is produced from renewable energy — let’s say maybe that is in outback WA — and we can ship that form of ammonia anywhere in the world,” Dr Harris said.

‘A massive step for Australia’

Both Toyota and Hyundai have invested millions of dollars into hydrogen-powered cars.

Today’s road test will be on Hyundai’s flagship eco car the Nexo SUV, and Toyota’s Murai.

The ABC got a sneak peek at the testing station where the cars were fuelled up and given a short test at CSIRO’s Pullenvale technology hub in western Brisbane.

Hyundai spokesman Scott Nargar said the main advantage of hydrogen over electric cars was they could be filled up in three minutes like a normal car and had a range of up to 800 kilometres.

“So they are just like driving a normal car but there will be zero emissions,” he said.

“From a car manufacturer’s point of view, we see this as a massive step for Australia.

“Working in and out of South Korea quite regularly, I know Hyundai has a massive contract to provide hydrogen buses to the Korean Government.

“It just announced 16,000 hydrogen-powered cars will go on the road and 310 hydrogen refilling stations across the country under a five-year plan.

“They need to power those cars from somewhere so why can’t it be renewable hydrogen from Australia?”

Toyota spokesman Matthew Macleod said the breakthrough was exciting because it addressed one of the key challenges with hydrogen.

“It is a game-changer,” he said.

“Ammonia already has established routes for transportation and to transport at relatively normal temperatures.

“When it gets to where it is going they can actually pull the hydrogen out using the CSIRO technology, which opens up fuel cell technology to markets that previously did not have the technology.

“From an energy perspective, the ability to move solar energy or wind energy from one place to another using ammonia opens up doors that previously would have been closed because of the difficulties of transporting hydrogen.”

Australia’s next export boom

The CSIRO team has already received expressions of interest from Japan, South Korea and Europe, with industry players looking at taking up supplies initially to fuel commercial vehicles like buses, taxis, trucks and trains.

Dr Dolan said a million hydrogen-powered cars were expected to hit the streets by 2025.

Currently hydrogen-fuelled cars sell for about $80,000, but, as with electric cars run on power-grid charged batteries, the price is expected to fall as production increases.

Mr Nargar said they expected to see price parity with petrol and diesel cars within a decade.

Dr Dolan said the cost for the fuel would be around $15 a kilogram, with an average car holding five kilos of pure hydrogen in a tank.

“But the efficiency of the car is twice as good as current gasoline cars, so you can actually drive twice as far on a tank,” he said.

Dr Dolan said renewable hydrogen was seen as Australia’s next export boom.

“It could potentially rival our LNG export industry,” he said.

“As of this year Australia is the world’s biggest natural gas exporter. Hydrogen could be in the same position in the next couple of decades.”

Hydrogen-powered cars could be on sale in Australia with the next two years.


Are Old Cars Really “Rock Solid”?

If you think the good old cars were safer in a crash, take a look a tthis video from the NRMA

Do you think old cars are safe? Watch this

It’s one of the most persistent myths in motoring: old cars are as solid as rocks and can crush new cars like beer cans.

The misconception arises from the recent development of the crumple zone, where designated parts of modern cars lose their shape under even minor impacts.

But what appears to be a weakness is actually a strength – crumple zones absorb energy and effectively sacrifice themselves for the sake of the passenger compartment, the safety and rigidity of which is constantly increasing with every new model.

It’s one of the fundamental design principles promoted by organisations like ANCAP and its international car safety partners, including the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in the United States.

But despite decades of innovation and improvement through rigorous testing, the myth of the tough old car persisted – so the IIHS created this truly shocking video to disprove it:

The vehicles involved are a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu (sold in Australia by Holden since 2013) and a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air, an iconic sedan featured locally in the original Mad Max movie.

The cars are crashed into each other in a 40 per cent offset collision at 64km/h, which is what ANCAP’s frontal offset collision test seeks to replicate – most recently and notoriously when the new Kia Carnival was scored only four stars.

The Malibu, which was rated five stars by ANCAP in 2013, behaves as you’d expect with the front of the car being crushed while the passenger compartment remains intact.

By comparison, what happens to the Bel Air is nothing short of terrifying. Even the dryly technical IIHS description of the impact captures the gut-wrenching terror of what would surely be the driver’s final seconds of life:

Dummy movement wasn’t well controlled, and there was far too much upward and rearward movement of the steering wheel. The dummy’s head struck the steering wheel rim and hub and then the roof and unpadded metal instrument panel to the left of the steering wheel.

During rebound, the dummy’s head remained in contact with the roof and slid rearward and somewhat inward. The windshield was completely dislodged from the car and the driver door opened during the crash, both presenting a risk of ejection. In addition, the front bench seat was torn away from the floor on the driver side.

In other words, it’s hard to say whether the driver would’ve been killed first by brain damage, a broken neck, multiple organ failure or blood loss from leg amputation.

In terms of the car’s structure, the impact pushes the engine into the footwells while the A-frame and chassis rail simply disintegrate back beyond the line of the roof.

“The Bel Air collapsed,” said David Zuby, the senior vice president for the IIHS’s vehicle research centre.

“The area in which the driver was sitting collapsed completely around him.”

The test was to mark the 50th anniversary in 2009 of the IIHS, a group funded by the US insurance industry.

The idea was to show how much automotive safety had progressed in five decades, particularly since the IIHS – in partnership with ANCAP and other national road safety bodies – started crash testing in earnest in 1992.

And while the test is now six years old, its message is as pressing as ever: buy the newest, safest car that you can afford and drive as carefully as you can.

Were you expecting this crash test to deliver this result? Let us know what you think.

To read more NRMA Advocacy content, click here.