Trucking group TIL Logistics has agreed to investigate hydrogen fuel options with Hiringa Energy.
The three-phase project could involve vehicle trials of hydrogen fuel cells by 2020, the New Plymouth-based company said.
Further roll-out of the technology in the fleet would depend on the development of refuelling infrastructure that Hiringa is scoping and developing with a range of partners, TIL said.
Chief executive Alan Pearson said the company, a member of the Climate Leaders Coalition, is determined to reduce its carbon emissions and lighten its environmental footprint.
“Hydrogen technology offers a zero emission fuel solution,” he said. “While there are a range of production, deployment and infrastructure options to be worked through, the use of hydrogen fuel has the potential to power our national fleet from a renewable source.”
Some of New Zealand’s biggest fleet operators and heavy industry are backing research into hydrogen as a potential alternative to diesel for long-distance trucking and potentially for some industrial heat applications.
Members of the New Zealand Hydrogen Association, announced last month, include Contact Energy, Fulton Hogan, HW Richardson, Siemens and Hyundai. Energy Minister Megan Woods signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Japanese government earlier this week to jointly work on the development of hydrogen as a fuel to help replace fossil fuels.
TIL’s fleet comprises about 900 trucks, 310 forklifts and 170 light vehicles.
The first phase of the project involves developing business cases for pilot projects and identifying the key metrics for commercial scaling. It will be completed mid-2019 and will leverage $950,000 New Plymouth-based Hiringa has secured from the government’s Provincial Growth Fund for the hydrogen research.
Hiringa chief executive Andrew Clennett, a former senior executive at Todd Energy, said the firm’s goal is to develop emissions-free hydrogen to displace diesel use, and possibly some industrial gas use longer term.
The firm is talking to potential suppliers of renewables-based hydrogen but may also need to utilise gas-based product in order to ensure reliable supplies. That product would still be emissions-neutral as it would otherwise be burned, he said.