Hydrogen vehicles to be manufactured in Port Kembla – exclusive

By Peter Roberts

A new company made up of experienced global car industry executives has been formed to produce hydrogen vehicles at facilities at Port Kembla in New South Wales.

The new company, H2X Australia, to be revealed to the general media later today, has developed several prototypes powered by a hybrid powertrain of hydrogen fuel cells and electric motors, including the Snowy SUV (pictured).

The Snowy, a medium-sized SUV with a 60 kw fuel cell and an overall power output of 190 kw, has been developed to the manufacturing level and could be seen on our roads in 2022/23, depending on the availability of hydrogen filling stations.

Speaking exclusively to @AuManufacturing, H2X CEO Brendan Norman said: “Seeing car manufacturing move away from the country was somewhat heartbreaking.

“But given Australia’s leadership in hydrogen we have the opportunity to bring it back. For me it is a dream come true.”

However rather than releasing the Snowy first, the first models to be built will be two heavy vehicles which will be built on a second, larger platform that can accommodate two fuel cell units to bring power output up to 300 to 550 kw.

Heavy vehicles run on set city and interstate routes for major transport companies and are hence less reliant on publicly available sources of hydrogen.

Norman, a former BMW and VW executive said: “We have two distinct platforms in final stages of development and will be releasing details shortly.

“We will be showing running prototypes of the first model in November, beta versions will be available for trailing by customers in April and we want to be producing in volume in July next year.”

H2X is planning for production of an initial 3,700 vehicles in the first year rising to 25,000 a year by 2025.

Norman and his partner Chris Reitz have recruited a strong team of launch executives with high level experience in global car companies ranging from BMW and Fiat to Nissan and Toyota.

Norman and Reitz developed hydrogen cars for Wuhan-based Grove Automotive which displayed three prototype vehicles at the 2019 Shanghai motor show.

The company currently employs 70, with plans to employ another 100 before the end of 2020, and builds on an extensive network of local and international suppliers.

(See: The history and people behind H2X Australia.)

Norman would not reveal the two types of heavy vehicle in development, however interstate trucking and passenger buses are often mentioned as the most suitable for early adoption of hydrogen technology.

He said the company has orders from initial launch customers in Australia who operated their own vehicle fleets, and was talking to a number of potential customers in Asia and Europe.

H2X has raised enough capital to begin production but is still talking to potential investors and state governments in Perth and Sydney.

Cornerstone investors are the Elvin Group, a concrete and construction company in the Canberra region and Ken Mathews, who heads up a diverse renewable energy company.

Norman said: “We are secure in our first phase of business as a sustainable long term business but looking for funding for expansion.”

The two vehicles will be manufactured with a mixture of local and imported components for an initial 30 to 50 per cent local content level.

H2X plans to aggressively increase local content of the hydrogen fuel drive train including fuel cells, electric motors and batteries.

“Within 18 to 24 months these will all be localised.

“We have a target by 2024 of being above 75 per cent local content.”

While heavy vehicles make sense as launch products it is the smaller vehicle platform that will form the basis of the Snowy SUV that will generate most interest.

Such a vehicle would join Japanese and Korean hydrogen fuel-cell cars like the Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Nexo on the local market.

Norman did let slip that his team was also designing a ‘Tractor’ variant based on the smaller platform (pictured below).

Picture: H2X/Snowy SUV

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