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Doorstop at Hyundai, Macquarie Park, Sydney

1 April 2015

Doorstop interview at Hyundai Motor Company Australia National Headquarters

Subject: Hydrogen fuel cell technology and related energy issues


JOURNALIST: Ian, first things first, I mean this car, it represents technology. That’s where you are, Industry and Science of course. It’s a big change potentially for motorists in the future?

IAN MACFARLANE: It’s a huge change, but it is the future of making sure we have a sustainable, environmentally friendly car fleet. This vehicle represents a zero emissions vehicle. It doesn’t have the weight of batteries to carry around, so its fuel efficiency is good, its range is equivalent to a current petrol powered vehicle and so it does represent the future and it does represent science and industry coming together to solve a problem that we do have to address.

JOURNALIST: The thing that’s been missing of course has been the actual filling stations themselves and this is one filling station, but if you’re going to be able to drive between capital cities for example, you’re going to need a lot more. Is this where the Government needs to step in?

IAN MACFARLANE: Well we’ll look at how we can assist the industry to get off its feet. In reality what we’ve seen in the United States and Europe is that the consumer demand creates the opportunity and fuel stations are being rolled out. So yes, we do want to see this industry prosper, we do want to see hydrogen become a viable alternative. How that happens is really collaboration between science, industry and government, and we’ll have that conversation.

JOURNALIST: Are you satisfied of the safety concerns of this vehicle in terms of using hydrogen as a fuel source?

IAN MACFARLANE: Well hydrogen is just another fuel source and in the end, the testing that goes into the hydrogen tank - it’s an aluminium tank but it uses the latest in carbon fibre, it can be thrown in a fire, it can be shot at with bullets and its obviously survived all the impact tests - there are no safety issues other than the normal ones associated with a combustible fuel. So, hydrogen will provide the same level of safety as a normal powered vehicle.

JOURNALIST: So the hydrogen flow rate, how real is it in Australia?

IAN MACFARLANE: Well there is a real opportunity and a real future. That is where we believe that the industry will progress to. Hydrogen is ultimately the zero emissions fuel and to generate it from renewable energy sources, from natural gas, to bring to a motoring public a zero emissions fuel in a city like Sydney, that is a phenomenal opportunity that must be grasped.

JOURNALIST: You announced the reinstatement of the Automotive Transformation Scheme funding a couple of weeks ago. Is there any scope for component makers to apply for that funding with things like this?

IAN MACFARLANE: Well, the way the Automotive Transformation Scheme works is a long proven process and what they need to do to be involved in the Automotive Transformation Scheme is to produce components for a vehicle being manufactured in Australia. So I’d have to be realistic and say because we don’t expect vehicles to be manufactured here past the end of 2017 that is unlikely. But there are a range of ways in which the Government is assisting. The Australian Research Council has already been involved, so there are other ways in which we can do it.

JOURNALIST: In terms of emissions standards, Australia has long been behind Europe and other countries just because, I guess, local manufacturing workers, we wouldn’t want to disadvantage them. Now that they’re going out can you see Australia fast forwarding our emissions to catch up with Europe?

IAN MACFARLANE: Well we will need to look at our emissions standards. You’re quite right, we are lagging behind the rest of the world and one of the main reasons for that was that we would have severely jeopardised local production of motor vehicles, now that’s not an issue. The other issue is that in terms of fuel quality and the associated emissions, there are issues in relation to our refining fleet and we again could place in jeopardy our ability to be refining fuel in Australia. But it is an issue which the Government is considering and the Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt and I have already had initial discussions in that area.

JOURNALIST: Minister, there’s a bunch of plug in electric vehicles, hybrids about to start rolling out in the Australian market. You’ve effectively said those manufacturers have jumped on the wrong horse?

IAN MACFARLANE: Well in the end, the long term future has got to be in a fuel cell vehicle that is zero emissions and there’s no doubt that electric and hybrid technology is a transitioning technology but in terms of where we’re going long term you need a vehicle that’s flexible, that gives you the range and the hydrogen vehicle is the only one that satisfies those criteria. Electric vehicles will play a role and how much of a role, we’ll see, but hydrogen certainly strikes me as the fuel of the future.

JOURNALIST: Minister, why do you reject Toyota’s hybrid fuel cell technology and support Hyundai’s?

IAN MACFARLANE: Well I’m not supporting Hyundai’s technology; I’m supporting the concept of hydrogen. I’ve been a long-time supporter of hydrogen. What ends up being the ultimate fuel source will be decided by the consumer. But hydrogen presents the flexibility and zero emissions that we need. You’re not carrying around batteries, you’re not having to dispose of batteries every four to eight years, so there are some solutions that hydrogen presents that aren’t available to electric vehicles.


Media contact: Minister Macfarlane's Office 02 6277 7070