Hydrogen trucks retreat from Australia as battery electric sales surge

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Hydrogen fuel cell specialists Hyzon have announced plans to quit Australia even as sales of battery electric commercial trucks climb.

For a while, it seemed like Hyzon had found something of a home in Australia. Recently, the American startup had announced pilot programs that would see its hydrogen fuel cells put to work in transit buses in Brisbane, tow trucks (above) in Victoria, and five 154-ton severe duty trucks scheduled to service a zinc refinery operation in north Queensland.

Alas, it seems like it’s not enough – Hyzon said Monday that, after a review of its business operations, it has “started realigning its strategic priorities along several lines to focus on the company’s core North American markets and the refuse industry.”

The company said it was hoping to raise new capital to get its 200 kW HFCs into series production, and has retained investment bank PJT Partners to evaluate a number of options, up to and including an outright sale of the company.

Meanwhile, BEVs are doing great

Commercial delivery EVs; courtesy ANC.

Meanwhile, Australia’s commercial BEV sales are booming. The entire country saw just under 100 battery electric trucks sold in 2022, but that number jumped to 256 in 2023 and continues to climb in 2024.

As if to underscore that fact, ANC (a leading, UPS-style last mile delivery partner for many of the Australia’s large retailers) has announced plans to spend more than $45 million.

ANC is calling the initiative “Project Spark,” and it’s being backed by a $12.8 million grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) specifically designed to address the barrier presented by the initially higher up-front costs of EVs. ARENA is also working to provide EV buyers with discounted leasing options, and generally “improved” EV charging infrastructure.

Project Spark is expected to add 112 new BEVs to Australia’s roads within the next year.

“It promises to kick-start a step change in electrifying last mile delivery in Australia by lowering the total costs to own and run electric trucks,” said Darren Miller, CEO of ARENA. “The project demonstrates use cases for battery electric trucks in last mile operations, tackling constraints that have so far made it hard for the industry to transition away from internal combustion engine vehicles.”

Electrek’s Take

MAN Trucks says hydrogen will never work, bets the farm on batteries
Image via MAN Trucks.

No one said it better than MAN CEO, Alexander Vlaskamp, who said that it was “impossible” for hydrogen trucks to effectively compete with BEVs. That interview is definitely worth a re-read, but to see companies like Hyzon suffering in even the most hydrogen-friendly markets out there is to believe Vlaskamp, even if you already believed him, just that little bit more.

SOURCES | IMAGES: Hyzon, ANC; via the Driven.

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