It might be out of sight of most residents, occurring before they've woken up, but the weekly bin pick up in the Illawarra is being watched by people around the globe after the introduction of the first hydrogen-powered garbage truck in Australia.
Developed by US truck maker Hyzon and designed in Australia, waste contractor Remondis, who picks up the bins in Wollongong and Shellharbour, is the company's first Australian customer, but others are expected to follow suit.
President of international relations at Hyzon Motors John Edgeley said the world's eyes would be on the Illawarra's bins as the globe struggles to tackle rising transport emissions.
"Everyone in the world is looking for how this stuff can replace diesel," he said.
Unlike other stop-start trials of hydrogen-powered vehicles in other parts of the country, Remondis south coast region manager Chris Wade said the Illawarra had the ingredients for the successful commercial operation of hydrogen vehicles.
"Wollongong and Shellharbour councils were desperate for it [hydrogen] as part of the immediate future," he said.
"And we have hydrogen here, at Coregas within BlueScope."
Just like the rollout of electric vehicles has been limited by the availability of charging stations, hydrogen refuelling stations are also few and far between, but with the first commercial hydrogen refuelling station opened in the Illawarra, Remondis joins Coregas in operating a hydrogen-powered truck as part of its fleet, and hopes to bring down the price of a tank of hydrogen.
"The cost at the moment is significant," Mr Wade said.
"We encourage more people to come on board with that and costs will come down. The future is about customers who want this, like Wollongong and Shellharbour councils. The hydrogen will come with the customers' needs."
Hydrogen has been touted as a future fuel to replace petroleum products, but has often been limited in its uptake.
H2X announced with much fanfare its plans to make hydrogen-powered vehicles in Port Kembla in 2020, but quietly moved south to Gippsland by 2022, noting the more mature hydrogen industry there.
Governments have continued to throw money at hydrogen projects, with the NSW government awarding BOC $28.5 million for the Illawarra Hydrogen Technology Hub in March, and Treasurer Jim Chalmers name-checking Wollongong when announcing the federal government's $2 billion hydrogen headstart fund in the 2023 budget.
What role hydrogen plays in cutting the Ilawarra's transport emission remains to be seen, but expect to see Wollongong garbos at the hydrogen refuelling site before former Chief Scientist and Port Kembla-based Hysata advisor Alan Finkel drops in to refuel his Toyota Mirai.
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