Hydrogen Mobility Australia (HMA), the peak body for hydrogen powered transport, noted that ‘while the central focus of this Inquiry is automated mass transit, HMA commends the Committee for incorporating consideration of alternative fuels within its terms of reference’. HMA did this because ‘automation and connectivity as well as electric drivetrains represent the most significant trends facing the automotive sector and are inextricably linked in that they are complementary technologies which can work together to minimise the environmental footprint of transport through reduced congestion and vehicle emissions’. HMA believed that ‘the full benefits of automation can only be realised with a zero-emission drivetrain’, and that therefore ‘both technologies be considered in parallel’.
This chapter will examine the benefits of electrification (battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles) of the vehicle fleet and the convergence between electrification and automation, before looking at the infrastructure requirements of electric vehicles, including standardised charging stations, and their interaction with the energy sector. It will then focus on hydrogen as a source of energy for the vehicle fleet and the particular infrastructure requirements of the hydrogen sector. Finally it will consider the benefits of the revolutionary Hyperloop transport technology.
Electric powered vehicles are set to become the principal mode of powered transport in the foreseeable future. Looking forward, toll road operator Transurban stated:
While uptake of electric vehicles in Australia has lagged behind global leaders such as China, Norway and Japan, there is growing momentum in the local market as consumers and governments recognise the benefits of electric vehicles and their inevitable role in future transport. Electric vehicle sales increased by 67 per cent from 2016 to 2017 and now make up 0.2 per cent of the Australian market.
Looking ahead, total electric vehicles on the road are forecast to reach over 2.56 million or 13.2 per cent of total new Australian vehicle sales by 2036, moving to 13.63 million or 61.5 per cent of all new vehicle sales by 2050.
In a similar vein, NRMA stated:
The rise of future mobility will progressively displace traditional engine and drivetrain technologies. Many current internal combustion car models will soon be substituted with an electric or hybrid equivalent – or withdrawn from market altogether. With Australian vehicle manufacturing now ceased, we are beholden to the choice of models manufactured in international markets, and it is clear that many of these will be electric.
NRMA took the view that Australia was ‘at a significant juncture relating to the future of mobility’, and strongly believed ‘that encouraging the electrification and automation of transport, in particular the vehicle fleet, will create profound positive change’. Alternatively, ‘failure to readily embrace transformative technologies will risk Australia falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to choice and the adoption of autonomous safety devices and features’.
NRMA also highlighted the link between electric vehicles and automation:
Electric vehicle drivetrains are currently being combined with connected and automated features by a range of manufacturers, including General Motors, Volvo, Volkswagen, Ford, Tesla and Waymo (Google). Autonomous technology has already started to appear in existing vehicles to assist drivers, and higher levels of vehicle autonomy are on track to arrive over the coming months and years.
NRMA is directly involved in the introduction of this technology, ‘through a number of projects, including NSW’s first automated vehicle trial and the roll-out of Australia’s largest electric vehicle fast charger network’. NRMA noted that ‘the benefits of progressively transitioning to electric and automated transport include lower costs, strengthened national fuel security, enhanced environmental conditions, and improved light vehicle and mobility choice for the consumer’.
Transurban highlighted the environmental benefits of electric vehicles, including zero emissions and noise reduction. NRMA regarded ‘the uptake of electric road vehicles, in particular, is likely to provide the greatest opportunity for Australia to reduce transport pollution while ensuring the lowest possible cost to consumers’. It also observed that ‘in addition to fuel savings, battery electric vehicles are considerably cheaper to maintain due to possessing far fewer moving parts’; and that ‘transitioning transport to electric propulsion will help to curtail Australia’s ever-increasing reliance on imported, oil-derived products . Moreover, the purchase price of electric vehicles was steadily coming down, and was expected to achieve price parity with ‘petrol/diesel equivalents from 2024’. NRMA stated:
This forecast reduction will primarily be attributable to the rapidly falling cost of vehicle batteries, which currently account for a highly significant portion of overall cost. Since 2010, the cost of vehicle batteries has decreased by around 80 per cent, and prices are forecast to continue to fall significantly. In parallel to these cost reductions, battery capacity is projected to double, vastly extending vehicle driving range and efficiency as a consequence.
Engineers Australia observed that the ‘main barriers to greater adoption of EVs [electric vehicles] in Australia are a lack of understanding of the range required of vehicles, and price anxieties’:
Most EVs marketed in Australia have a range between 100km and 500km. A Victorian travel survey of over 700,000 car trips taken in one year, found that almost half of the surveyed trips were less than 5km, more than 90% were less than 30km and less than 1% were greater than 120km. The survey highlighted that most EVs have sufficient range to cover a majority of urban car trips.
The need for the development of charging infrastructure was also highlighted. Engineers Australia noted:
In June 2017, there were 476 dedicated electric vehicle public charging stations in Australia. As the volume of electric cars increases in Australia, this number will be insufficient.
The Queensland Government in collaboration with local councils created the world’s longest electric super highway in a single state and indeed, the rest of Australia is well supported. The Australian Electric Vehicle Association recently published Around Australia Electric Highway – now complete! which provides a digital snapshot of electric charger and service stations around Australia.
For the majority of the time, cars are parked. Providing greater access to charging infrastructure in carparks and existing service stations will assist in alleviating range anxieties.
The NRMA was funding the development of charging infrastructure, committing $10 million to the construction of ‘Australia’s largest electric vehicle fast charger network, suitable for a range of electric vehicles and free for NRMA Members’. NRMA stated:
This foundational investment was designed to address one of the key barriers to the adoption of electric vehicles in Australia – access to charging infrastructure away from the home.
Through locating this charging infrastructure to support current vehicle range capabilities on key road corridors between Sydney, Western NSW, Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane and other destinations, the NRMA will unlock the east coast of Australia, providing millions of people across the country with access to an alternative form of mobility.
Battery Electric Buses
While electric vehicles generally are widely regarded as the way of the future, Monash University highlighted the limitations of current battery electric technology in buses. Monash observed that
In general current battery electric bus technology is not practical for day to day mass transit operations because:
Battery recharge times are too long
The range of distance provided by battery electric power are too short for typical day operations of buses.
Monash noted ‘that common deployment of even the most advanced current electric bus designs would roughly double the bus fleet requirements in cities to provide the same service levels, largely because two buses are required to replace a current diesel bus’. Monash instead highlighted the need to ‘focus on new designs with integrated purpose-made chassis and fast-charging lightweight battery packs’. Monash highlighted research that found that:
Current Conventional Electric Bus [CEB] designs are impractical in cost-effectiveness terms compared to diesel buses; fleet size increases of 38-82% are found; these are not economically sustainable.
An Advanced Electric Bus (AEB) design using a bespoke chassis represent a significantly better fleet resource impact but still incur fleet size increases of around 10% compared to diesel.
Overall all Electric Bus (EB) designs improve ride/noise quality with benefits valued at 26c/passenger trip. Most EB options tested increase ridership; by 1.9% for CEB from ride/noise quality improvements over diesel buses. Most AEB options also have a net ridership increase but this is a net effect balancing ridership decline through in-route recharge delay balanced by ridership growth from ride/noise quality benefits.
Air conditioning operation significantly increases energy requirements, reducing operating range and requiring greater en-route recharging.
Electric vehicles and the electricity network
There were significant implications in the electrification of the vehicle fleet as well as benefits. As part of its research into the impacts of automation and zero emissions vehicles, Infrastructure Victoria commissioned modelling into ‘the impacts to the Victorian electricity system resulting from the co-emergence of zero emissions vehicles (either battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles) and automated vehicles’:
The results showed that if zero emissions vehicles replace conventional vehicles, there will be substantial impacts for both Victorian generation capacity and transmission and distribution networks. If all vehicles were battery electric, electricity consumption would roughly double and generation upgrades could cost at least $2.2 billion. If all vehicles were fuelled by zero emissions hydrogen, electricity consumption would increase by almost 150%. However, it is important to note that this was based on a scenario with 100% hydrogen vehicle take-up, which is unlikely. If hydrogen were used in certain specific applications, such as to fuel heavy vehicles and buses, the impact would be far lower. Buses and other heavy vehicles could lend themselves to a potential model of industrial-scale hydrogen generation and use, as current battery technologies are generally considered too heavy to be a commercially viable solution for some payload-sensitive uses.
Infrastructure Victoria found that ‘the actual demand for electricity generation and distribution will depend upon a wide range of factors, including potential incentives to charge outside of peak times and the composition of the vehicle fleet’:
For example, under our 'Fleet Street' scenario where all vehicles are electric, on-demand and automated, charging would be likely to occur outside of peak travel (and energy) time periods. However, fleet charging could have a significant localised impact on the electricity distribution network if large numbers of vehicles charge at fleet depots. In contrast, under the 'Private Drive' scenario, where all vehicles are electric, privately-owned and automated, peak energy demand could be worsened if all drivers plug in to charge when they get home from work, unless there are centralised controls, or incentives or other mechanisms to encourage off-peak charging.
Infrastructure Victoria noted that ‘while the significant increases in electricity use shown through our modelling were largely caused by zero emissions rather than automated vehicle uptake, it has direct implications for automated vehicle planning’. This was because of the convergence in automated and electric vehicle technologies meaning that it was ‘highly likely that the driverless vehicles of tomorrow will be zero emissions’. Infrastructure Victoria stressed that ‘if these significant increases in electricity consumption eventuate, energy and transport policy and planning will need to be coordinated more than ever before’. It noted that ‘to plan appropriately, energy departments will need clear visibility of transport technology developments and future plans for the transport network’. Likewise, ‘transport will need to work closely with energy to understand how our energy supply could impact an electric or hydrogen vehicle fleet’. According to Dr Jonathan Spear, ‘there is very much a need to integrate planning of transport and energy policy investments’.
NRMA also observed that ‘transitioning the vehicle fleet to electric propulsion will undoubtedly be reliant on the capacity of the electricity grid to support consumer usage patterns’. It noted however, that:
If properly managed, electric road vehicles can support the resilience and reliability of the National Energy Market (NEM) and help to better manage household electricity costs. Electric vehicles by their very nature are batteries on wheels, and could potentially provide power to the electricity grid during periods of peak demand. Charging would mostly occur overnight in the home during off-peak periods.
According to the Australian Energy Market Operator, electricity consumption by electric vehicles is estimated to be less than four per cent of total electricity demand by 2036. With consumption forecasts remaining relatively flat for the next 20 years, future demand is small compared to the impact of other changes expected to take place, such as investment in renewable energy technologies, the restructuring of the Australian economy, and the energy efficiency improvements of major appliances.
Engineers Australia also highlighted the implications of electric vehicles for electricity generation and emissions reductions, stating:
Recent research conducted for the City of Melbourne demonstrated that due to the carbon intensity of electricity production in certain Australian states, operating an electric vehicle in Australia can sometimes be dirtier than many of the most popular petrol cars.
In order to fully realise the benefits associated with the electrification of our transport networks, focus upon emissions reductions for the entire electricity network must occur concurrently.
The potential for hydrogen power to play a significant role in the future of Australian land transport was set out by Hydrogen Mobility Australia. It was confident that Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV) would play an important role in the development of the mass transit sector. HMA highlighted the Chief Scientist’s Hydrogen for Australia’s Future report to the COAG Energy Council, which ‘recommends as a critical first step the development of an overarching national hydrogen strategy, which will define the role for government and industry in’:
International agreements and regulations, including shipping, to position Australia as the world’s leading hydrogen exporter
Standards to ensure safety in all aspects of the hydrogen sector
Regulations to enable the addition of hydrogen to existing domestic gas supplies
Refuelling infrastructure and regulations for hydrogen vehicles.
HMA noted that a national hydrogen strategy would be considered by the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) Energy Council in December 2018. At this meeting, the COAG Energy Council formed a Hydrogen Working Group to formulate a National Hydrogen Strategy by the end of 2019. Chaired by the Chief Scientist, the Working Group will have six work streams: hydrogen exports; hydrogen for transport; hydrogen in the gas network; hydrogen for industrial users; hydrogen to support electricity systems; and cross-cutting issues.
Engineers Australia also encouraged ‘the government to recognise the value of fostering our hydrogen energy power’, in conjunction ‘with the incentives and deployment of infrastructure policies required for the electrification of our transport networks’. Engineers Australia highlighted the work the Chief Scientist in identifying the ‘broad social and economic benefits of hydrogen production for Australia’, including three main drivers:
Energy export. Nations like Japan and South Korea that import most of their energy in the form of coal, oil and natural gas need cleaner energy to meet their CO2 emissions reduction targets. Clean hydrogen is ideal. Japan has already declared it will be a large-scale hydrogen user. As yet, there are no large-scale exporters. This is a significant opportunity for Australia, given our ample renewable energy and convertible fossil-fuel reserves.
Domestic economy. Hydrogen can heat our buildings, power our vehicles and supply our industrial processes. These applications represent opportunities to expand manufacturing and generate spill over innovation and jobs while lowering our CO2 emissions.
Energy system resilience. Hydrogen production from electricity and water is a flexible load that can respond rapidly to variations in electricity production and can contribute to frequency control in the electricity grid.
Engineers Australia noted that ‘with an increased demand for zero emissions transport options, hydrogen fuel cells can provide a reasonably priced, rapid refuel and long range alternative’, and that ‘as hydrogen has the capacity to store energy and flexible load, grid resilience is increased’. EA noted, however, that ‘despite the benefits outlined above, hydrogen is still expensive to produce and unless it is produced using renewable sources, cannot be considered renewable’.
Hydrogen fuel cell technology
An important alternative to battery electric vehicles (BEV) is hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. Battery electric vehicles draw their electricity from external sources and store it in an on-board battery. Hydrogen fuel cells produce electricity on board, on demand, using hydrogen as fuel. Hydrogen Mobility Australia stated that both technologies ‘are zero emissions technologies, and are equally expected to play significant roles in the decarbonisation of the transport sector’. Nonetheless, HMA identified specific benefits related to FCEV technology, including:
Long travel range – Similar range delivered to an internal combustion engine (ICE) and a greater range than a BEV (i.e. up to 800km for a FCEV which is two to three times the range of a BEV)
Fast refuelling time – Similar refuelling process and time to a petrol or diesel vehicle (i.e. 3-5 minutes for a passenger car)
Smooth and quiet operation – Electric drivetrains make significantly less noise than ICE
Heavy payload capability – Hydrogen storage and fuel cell technology is easily scalable meaning its suitable for heavier vehicles and loads
Reduced maintenance costs – Due to the smaller number of moving parts versus ICE
Zero harmful emissions while driving – No damaging pollutants or carbon dioxide is emitted by the vehicle when in use.
HMA observed that due to the special characteristics of FCEVs, ‘particularly range, refuelling time and payload capability, hydrogen is being recognised as having the potential to play a significant role in heavier and long-range transport segments’. HMA cited figures from the Hydrogen Council (the global industry advocate for the hydrogen sector) indicating ‘that 5 million trucks (~30%), and more than 15 million buses (~25%) will be running on hydrogen in the year 2050’. The Hydrogen Council also forecast ‘that 20 per cent of today’s diesel trains will be replaced with hydrogen-powered trains’ by 2050. HMA noted the Chief Scientist’s Hydrogen for Australia’s Future, which forecast ‘future domestic demand for hydrogen powered long-haul heavy transport such as buses, trucks, trains and ships due to the above characteristics’. The report found that ‘the greater range and quicker refuelling times of FCEVs will translate to higher vehicle availability and productivity compared to BEVs’:
It is expected these advantages will make FCEVs of more value to fleet operators through lower idle time for refuelling and higher utilisation of vehicles therefore reducing the number of vehicles required in the total fleet. This could be significant in the longer-term where car ownership declines and individuals and businesses subscribe to mobility services provided by fleets. Further, autonomous vehicle fleets can be programmed to return to a single refuelling base, reducing the need for refuelling infrastructure.
HMA also observed that ‘the integration of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles into Australian mass transit also presents opportunities for local manufacturing of both vehicles and supportive infrastructure’:
This potential is being seen through examples such as the recently announced SEA Electric EV factory in the Latrobe Valley. The facility is expected to create 500 jobs and assemble 2,400 vehicles a year – specialising in the production of electric delivery vans and minibuses.
Hydrogen and mass transit
HMA highlighted the benefits of hydrogen fuel cell technology in buses. It noted that hydrogen fuel cell buses represent a direct one for one replacement with diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG) buses. Other benefits included:
Operating performance and refuelling time comparable to diesel and CNG buses
Climbing and cold weather performance similar to diesel and CNG buses
No additional curb weight to maximise passenger capacity
Long-range up to 450 kilometres between refuelling
Route flexibility (depot refuelling means there is no need for en-route charging infrastructure)
Reduced maintenance and repair costs due to fewer moving parts versus their ICE counterparts
Significant opportunities for emissions reductions.
HMA observed that ‘fuel cell buses have been proven in real-world conditions and are a fully commercialised technology’:
Hydrogen-powered buses are one of the most mature fuel cell technologies with bus fleets currently operating throughout the European Union, Asia and the United States supporting city emission reduction objectives (CO2 and NOx) and Paris accord commitments.
European Union fleets alone have travelled almost 10 million kilometres and refuelled with more than 1.1 million kilograms of hydrogen since introduction. In London for instance, eight fuel cell buses have been operating on the RV1 – Covent Garden to Tower Gateway station line since 2010 travelling over one million kilometres to date with a reliability of 98 per cent.
Hydrogen fuel cell technology is also suitable for trains. Hydrogen fuel cell powered trains ‘represent a direct replacement for diesel rolling stock’, and also ‘require significantly less infrastructure investment than electric trains where the electrification of existing train lines is needed to enable their introduction’. HMA suggested that:
Similar to buses, hydrogen trains represent a standout technology for the introduction of clean mobility in public transit, with no sacrifice to operability or performance while delivering an enhanced customer experience through improved air quality and noise reduction.
HMA noted that ‘the first hydrogen fuel cell trains, manufactured by French company Alstom, went into commercial service in September 2018 in Lower Saxony, Germany’; and that other countries were actively investigating hydrogen powered trains.
Hydrogen fuel cell technology requires supporting infrastructure, particularly refuelling stations. HMA noted that:
Hydrogen refuelling stations can be integrated onto the forecourt of petrol stations adjacent to other fuel bowsers or alternatively can be installed at the premises of fleet operators for the purposes of back to base refuelling. The hydrogen itself can either be generated on site through electrolysis or delivered via tube trailer or gas pipelines. Refuelling equipment is consistent across transport modes, for instance a single refuelling station can supply hydrogen to a car, a truck or a bus from any vehicle manufacturer.
At this stage, access to hydrogen refuelling is limited, but ‘both Hyundai and Toyota also have their own private hydrogen refuelling stations to service their vehicles in Australia in Sydney and Melbourne respectively’; and ‘projects are currently in progress in the ACT, New South Wales and Victoria’. The cost of refuelling stations was expected to come down as the technology becomes more widespread. HMA noted that ‘the consistent routes of mass transit vehicles make them suitable for back to base refuelling with infrastructure investment thereby minimised through the utilisation of a single refuelling site’.
In its submission, CSIRO dealt at length with the development of hydrogen fuel infrastructure in Australia, both for domestic use and as potential major export. CSIRO stated:
Deployment of hydrogen technology systems and infrastructure is gaining considerable momentum globally. As part of many global initiatives for emissions reduction from the energy sector, North Asia and Europe in particular are aggressively investigating adoption of hydrogen-based transportation and energy systems. If produced and transported at scale, hydrogen could be integrated into the future energy value chain to support power generation, transport, food and agriculture, water, resources, heavy industry and more.
CSIRO observed that ‘to develop an impactful hydrogen export industry, supply chains must be developed to produce hydrogen from a range of processes including’:
decarbonised fossil fuel sources (coal gasification or natural gas reforming with CCS [Carbon Capture and Storage])
biomass and waste conversion
water electrolysis driven by renewable electricity from solar PV, solar thermal, wind and hydro
thermal water decomposition processes using technologies such as catalytic solar thermal technologies.
CSIRO indicated that research and development activities are being currently undertaken by CSIRO and its partners to increase the efficiency of hydrogen production, storage, transport and utilisation, including:
Developing new materials and technologies for reducing the cost of hydrogen (or carrier) production from renewables and low emissions fossil fuel pathways;
Identifying and applying novel, hybrid pathways (biological, chemical, physical) allowing integration of production processes with intermittent, distributed renewables;
Creating technologies to effectively extract hydrogen from relevant carriers at the point of use;
Generating the scientific knowledge required to support direct use of ammonia (and other hydrogen carriers) in engines, gas turbines, and fuel cells;
Understanding environmental, social, and practical implications of new renewable energy systems. For example, using new atmospheric and environmental chemistry and physics to support identification and management of potential impacts associated with increased uptake of new chemicals and fuels.
CSIRO noted that ‘global hydrogen production is currently 55 million tonnes per year … and it is mostly used to refine oil, produce ammonia and methanol, and for metallurgical applications and food production’. It observed that ‘only around a million tonnes is used for energy applications’ and that most of the hydrogen produced comes ‘from natural gas (NG), oil and coal’. Around 50% was produced by natural gas steam reforming. Hydrogen produced from fossil fuels was carbon intensive, requiring ‘carbon capture and storage (CCS) to achieve zero CO2 emissions’. Hydrogen produced by electrolysis (splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen) would require renewable sources of electricity to avoid direct CO2 emissions. CSIRO noted that:
Hydrogen production is currently dominated by fossil fuel energy based routes, but will shift towards more renewable routes as renewable electricity is harnessed to drive electrolysis processes and other renewable energy sources, such as biomass and waste streams are processed to produce hydrogen.
At this point in time, however, hydrogen production from fossil fuels is cheaper than hydrogen produced by electrolysis. In addition, hydrogen for automotive fuel faces additional costs for fuel compression.
CSIRO noted that there are already a number of large scale CCS projects globally and that the ‘technology around pipelines and transport is well understood, as is CO2 injection’. Estimates of the potential cost of CCS varied widely:
The most recent estimates come from the Australian Power Generation Technology Report (CO2CRC, 2015), which states “the cost for CO2 transport, injection and monitoring is likely to vary between $5/t and $14/t injected for cases involving short transport distances to storage formations with good characteristics”. This increases to be “almost $70/t injected for cases involving the transport of small volumes of CO2 over long distances to storage formations with poorer characteristics”. These estimates will vary according to the specifics of each project. The estimates exclude the cost of capture and compression, but include the cost of monitoring and verification.
CSIRO stated that ‘CarbonNet are examining a number of injection sites. The costs for each site have been estimated as between $6 and $24/t CO2 injected (CO2CRC, 2015)’.
CSIRO noted that the ‘transport of hydrogen to distant markets represents a major challenge’. It stated that ‘liquefied hydrogen, ammonia and methyl cyclohexane (MCH) are examples of compounds that are being considered as suitable carriers of hydrogen for transport of hydrogen over long distances (by road or intercontinental transport)’. Liquid hydrogen requires extremely low temperatures (-253°C at ambient pressure). ‘This incurs a significant energy penalty, and places great demands on materials.’ Ammonia is carbon free, ‘17% hydrogen by weight, and in liquid form, contains 120 kg/m3 by volume of hydrogen’. Ammonia production and distribution is already in place. Ammonia’s drawback is ‘the relative paucity of technologies which enable it to be used directly as a fuel, or converted back to hydrogen for proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells such as those used in commercial fuel cell electric vehicles’. CSIRO observed that while there ‘are advanced programs developing direct-ammonia fuel cells for high-efficiency stationary power generation and large scale internal combustion engine technologies capable of being fuelled directly with ammonia’, it was ‘necessary to extract high-purity hydrogen from ammonia close to the point of use’ in order to provide for the fuel requirements of the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle fleet. CSIRO noted that:
CSIRO’s membrane technology potentially has a key enabling role in this value chain as it can be used to purify hydrogen from ammonia (and potentially other hydrocarbon-derived feedstocks) to meet the stringent purity requirements of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells which are used in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
CSIRO concluded by stating:
Deployment of hydrogen systems and infrastructure is gaining considerable momentum globally. CSIRO and other research and industry groups are exploring and developing new technologies across the hydrogen value chain to support rapid expansion of the opportunity for the development of internationally traded renewable energy through hydrogen energy systems.
Another transport solution proposed to the Committee was the Hyperloop. It is ‘a tube-based inter and intra-city transportation system for passengers and goods’. It uses ‘proprietary passive magnetic levitation and a linear motor combined with a tube environment in which air pressure has been drastically reduced to allow the capsules to move at high speed with nearly zero friction’. It is ‘powered by a combination of alternative energy sources to ensure sustainability and low cost’. As described by Mr Bibop Gresta, Chairman and Co-Founder of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, ‘the Hyperloop is a simple concept with a very complex set of technologies to guarantee safety and reliability’.
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies believed that the Hyperloop system would be ideal for connecting Australia’s eastern cities and major regional centres. It was equally useful in the movement of passengers and cargo.
As envisaged, the Hyperloop has significant advantages over competing transport modes. It has ‘a projected maximum speed of about 1,223 km/h’, and even at half this speed ‘would be far faster than any ground transportation now in existence and would be faster than air travel over target routes with far less delay’. It could ‘carry more goods and people than other forms of transportation. Hyperloop capsules ‘with 38 passengers, a 40-second maximum potential departure rate from the station, within a 2 tube system would yield 164,160 persons a day and nearly 60 million people a year at full capacity for one route’. The Hyperloop would have lower capital and operating costs, smaller land requirements and less environmental impacts than other transport modes. It also offered a more positive passenger experience:
By oﬀering on-demand trips with limited time between departures, HyperloopTT resolves many of the ticketing issues faced by airline customers. Instead of having groups of people arriving at one time for the same ﬂight, HyperloopTT has a steady stream of passengers arriving and departing. The HyperloopTT station design limits security wait times by using biometric security systems. Given the heavy travel demand between medium distance city pairs, there is a large, unsatisﬁed demand for this type of speedy, low hassle service. Moreover, the travel experience between destinations is seamless by removing the need for paper ticketing systems.
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies is currently exploring or engaging in feasibility studies with governments and organisations in a number of countries and has agreements for the commencement of commercial projects in Abu Dhabi and China.
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies argued that the ‘current interstate transportation system in Australia is broken like other parts of the world—ineﬃcient, environmentally unfriendly and expensive’. It stated that:
There is no High Speed Rail capability in Australia currently—the costs have always been prohibitive. Nothing has changed and HSR has become obsolete technology against Hyperloop. What has changed is that Australia has become increasingly desperate for a rapid ﬁx.
Hyperloop recommended that the Australian Government:
Takes an urgent and leading role in evaluating and regulating these emerging autonomous standards.
Funds a comparative study of autonomous modes (high speed and other).
Invests in an Innovation Hub on Australian soil, to prove that this step-change in technology is realizable, safe and eﬃcient, and uniquely solves Australia’s main transport challenges.
Describing what Hyperloop Transportation Technologies would need from government to commence work, Mr Wesley Heron, Lead, Business Development Australia with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, stated:
We'd require a mandate from government that says government is happy to invest in Hyperloop feasibility studies and Hyperloop innovation hubs. Give us the opportunity for, let's say, two-hundredths of the cost that is being allocated to things like high speed rail to quote to you what a feasibility study would cost on the corridor of choice. You might like us to look at Melbourne-Sydney or Sydney-Brisbane. You might like us to help state governments and ask the state governments to support us and to give us an opportunity to work alongside their project people that are already doing work in these corridors. We need to move quickly, because these studies are here and now. There are two big airport studies that are going on—one in Victoria and one in New South Wales. There is a Hyperloop solution in both those areas as well.
The Committee agrees that the electrification of transport is the way of the future. Electrification will lower costs, reduce the environmental impacts of land transport and enhance national fuel security. By investing in zero-emissions technologies, Australia could eliminate greenhouse gas emissions related to transport, significantly reduce noise pollution associated with land transport, make vehicles simpler and safer to operate and maintain, and largely eliminate reliance on fuel imports. If done right, the electrification of the vehicle fleet could even enhance the electricity network through battery storage or hydrogen fuel cell technology.
The Committee is also conscious of the convergence between electrification and automation—the fact that the electrification of vehicles has synergies with the development of vehicle electronics. The Committee agrees with the evidence presented that the development of government policy in these areas should also converge. Ideally both electrification and automation should be managed together within the same office within the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities (see Chapter 4).
The Committee notes the work done by the Chief Scientist and CSIRO to investigate and promote the development of hydrogen power in Australia, and the work being done by auto companies, particularly in Korea and Japan, to develop hydrogen powered vehicles. This is now a mature technology and the challenge is to identify the optimum pathway to introducing and developing hydrogen powered transport in conjunction with battery electric vehicles. The evidence presented to the Committee is that the two technologies are complementary, with battery electric vehicles being well suited to short-range small vehicle travel in an urban environment, and hydrogen power being suited to longer-range and heavy transport use. Hydrogen fuel cell technology is particularly well-adapted to trucks, buses and even trains. The Australian Government should look at how it can facilitate the introduction and development of these technologies.
The key to the implementation of new energy sources is the provision of charging and refuelling infrastructure. Work is already being done in several jurisdictions to introduce electric charging stations or hydrogen refuelling stations. Coordination and planning is required to ensure that infrastructure meets demand and that refuelling and recharging technology follows defined standards for compatibility and interoperability.
It is also essential to explore the energy implications of new energy sources. Battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell technology both have the potential to significantly increase demands for electricity, with implications for the supply of electricity and greenhouse gas emissions. Infrastructure Victoria’s report provides clear evidence that the introduction of new energy sources will demand greater coordination between the transport and energy sectors. Achieving this coordination should be a priority for government.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government facilitate the introduction and uptake of electric vehicles (both BEV and FCEV), especially mass transit vehicles, including through coordination and planning of the development of infrastructure to meet demand; ensuring that refuelling and recharging technology follows defined standards for compatibility and interoperability; and by promoting greater coordination between the transport and energy sectors.
Hydrogen power brings its own infrastructure demands. The production and transport of hydrogen in cost-effective and energy-efficient ways is essential to the development of hydrogen power. The Committee supports the development of a national hydrogen strategy that provides for the manufacture and transport of hydrogen in a safe, cost-effective and energy efficient way; targets zero-emission production and distribution; provides for the energy needs of Australia’s vehicle fleet; and, while providing for export opportunities, is focussed first and foremost on Australia’s energy security.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government, in conjunction with State and Territory Governments, develops a national hydrogen strategy that provides for the manufacture and transport of hydrogen in a safe, cost-effective and energy-efficient way; targets zero-emission production and distribution; provides for the energy needs of Australia’s vehicle fleet; and, while providing for export opportunities, is focussed first and foremost on Australia’s energy security.
Hyperloop is a concept with significant potential. If it lives up to its promise it will revolutionise inter-city transport. While the Committee believes that a formal commitment to the development of Hyperloop technology in Australia is a little premature, it nonetheless believes that the Australian Government should keep abreast of developments in this technology, with a view to exploiting its potential in the future once that potential begins to be realised.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government maintain a close watch on the development of Hyperloop technology with a view to its development as a transport solution in Australia.