Trucks of the future: Deakin’s mission to decarbonise heavy transport

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Deakin University's new research centre will test how hydrogen fuel-cells can work in tandem with electric vehicle technologies.

By U2B Staff 

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Researchers at Deakin University’s new research centre in Warrnambool, a city southwest of Victoria, Australia, are on a mission to create a hydrogen truck that won’t need to make frequent charging stops.

In an announcement this week, the university said the new Hydrogen Transition Centre is being set up for that purpose and represents the first step on the road to establishing an AU$20 million HyceL Warrnambool research and industry testing site.

Part-funded by an AU$2 million federal grant to support research, it will test how hydrogen fuel-cells can work in tandem with electric vehicle technologies. If successful, it means electric trucks will create power as they drive, reducing the need to stop for a recharge.

Deakin University will lead the project with Kenworth and Warrnambool City Council.

“The centre will partner with industry to apply Deakin University’s world-leading capabilities to solve one of our toughest transport issues: how to fuel the world’s trucking industries in a low carbon future,” said Deakin Vice-Chancellor Professor Iain Martin in The Driven.

 “Freight trucking continues to grow here and overseas, and trucks are driving further, with heavier loads; all big challenges.”


Martin also commended the federal government for investing in the project.

“The Federal Government investment will see our researchers partner with Australia’s leading truck manufacturer, Kenworth, as well as with industry leaders in hydrogen fuel-cells, electric vehicles and gas distribution,” he said.

“If successful, the enhanced technologies could be used by Kenworth trucks made here in Australia, as well as those made internationally by Kenworth’s parent company PACCAR – a US Fortune 500 company.

“The technologies can also be applied to other heavy vehicles, such as buses, including those operated by Warrnambool Bus Lines,” he added.

Australia is often criticised for lagging behind its developed peers in the race to curb greenhouse gas emissions from transport. Transport is the country’s second-largest source of emissions and data shows that rather than decline, these numbers are on the rise.

In the 12 months to December 2017, transport-related pollution levels spiked by 3.4 percent. Since 1990, they have gone up nearly 63 percent, higher than any other sector.


Globally, transportation contributes to 14 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions, primarily from fossil fuels burned for road, rail, air and marine transportation.

It’s for this reason that research and development into fuel alternatives have been gathering pace around the world in recent years, also fuelling the rise of electric vehicles as a viable transport option.

Deakin’s hydrogen truck gambit fits nicely within these ambitions.

The centre also firms up the university’s commitment to the Warrnambool campus and the broader region – when the HyceL Warrnambool project is fully up and running, it is expected to create up to 200 full-time jobs.

For a start, the centre will support up to 12 jobs.

The university hopes the centre will drive economic activity to the city and the largest Southwest region, helping it tap the world’s growing multi-billion-dollar hydrogen market and turning the region into a renewable energy hot spot.

The move also falls in line with Warrnambool City Council’s target to achieve carbon-neutral status by 2040.

The South-West is already home to one of the biggest wind farms in Victoria, the 336 MW Dundonnell Wind Farm, located north-east of Mortlake, Victoria, close to Warrnambool, which is set to begin operations late-2020, after construction began earlier this year.