A hydrogen ecosystem in SA? 

A hydrogen ecosystem in SA? 

Sasol, Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM), and Air Products South Africa (APSA) made history in October at the Smarter Mobility Africa Summit with SA’s first hydrogen mobility ecosystem on-road demonstration.

The three-way partnership was formed in 2021 to promote hydrogen as a fuel of the future. Their proof-of-concept used a second-generation Toyota Mirai fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) – powered by Sasol-produced hydrogen and APSA’s dispensing technology – to take several VIP passengers around a test track at Gallagher Convention Centre. 

“APSA has a long history as a leader in the local industrial gas market and related supply chain management,” said Rob Richardson, APSA’s managing director. “Globally we have been conducting safe hydrogen fuelling for more than 25 years and during that time have conducted an average of 1.5 million hydrogen fuelling operations a year.”

“The hydrogen market is best suited to longer distance travel and larger vehicles such as trucks and buses, so Toyota is involved in several projects where the FCEVs are commercial vehicles made by Toyota or conversions of existing models from other manufacturers,” explained Andrew Kirby, TSAM’s president and CEO.

“There was an important development in this regard recently when Toyota UK unveiled and demonstrated a Hilux bakkie fitted with a specially adapted Mirai fuel cell powertrain. The prototype was assembled by Toyota UK in England, but … the basic vehicles were built in Prospecton,” Kirby continued.

The current challenge is to figure out how to commercialise a hydrogen mobility ecosystem in SA in the face of high costs. “It now needs more partners, investors, and support from the government,” he urged.

“The current partnership is looking at so-called eco-clusters as a start – high commercial traffic areas in the country,” Kirby continued. He cited the Pretoria-Johannesburg region as a potential place to start due to high volume routes which could justify investment in hydrogen refuelling infrastructure. Hydrogen ecosystems could then be extended along major long-haul routes such as the N3 between Johannesburg and Durban and later even cross-border.

“Today is an important steppingstone towards realising the ambitious goal of developing an on-road hydrogen mobility ecosystem,” said Fleetwood Grobler, president and CEO of Sasol. “Hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, has the potential to be a game-changer in the quest for sustainable transportation.”

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