Australian-first as the central Queenslands Emerald bus company drops diesel for hydrogen

A regional transport service in central Queensland has chosen to switch its fleet of diesel-powered buses to electric hydrogen fuel cell buses in a move that it says is an Australian-first for a private company.

Each year, the 120 buses in Emerald Coaches’ fleet consumed more than one million gallons of fuel and produced 3,100 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

In response, the family-owned company has set a net zero-emission target by 2040, which is 10 years ahead of the federal government’s current commitment.

Company Director Michael Baulch said that even though it was “the right thing to do”, it was also a smart business decision.

“We think [diesel buses] “is going to become obsolete and we think it is important that we take the lead in this transition,” Mr Baulch said.

A man and woman on a dusty road with a bus in the background
Emerald Coaches is the largest provider of school bus services in the central highlands of Queensland.(Supplied by: Emerald Coaches)

“Our hydrogen fuel cell electric buses will have roughly the same range [as a diesel bus]”It will take about 10 minutes to burn a bus and it will have about 800 kilometers within reach.”

“We are already having a hard time attracting mechanics and people to work on these vehicles. I’m just not sure how many skilled craftsmen we will have to service the diesel cars in 15 years.”

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Is green hydrogen the fuel of the future?

Battery versus hydrogen

Sir. Baulch said that when considering net zero options, the choice between battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell was electric.

“There are some limiting factors with regard to battery electric vehicles that have led us to this,” he said.

“Part of that is the infrastructure cost of being able to get enough energy into our depot to be able to charge 60 vehicles at any one time in the Emerald area.”

The hydrogen option offered better fuel safety and range and enabled the company to produce its own hydrogen.

In the future, green hydrogen fuel will be produced at its depot in Emerald, 270 miles west of Rockhampton, with rainwater collected on site using a renewable-powered electrolyzer.

Sustainable businesses more competitive

Alex Zafiriadis of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland said companies using sustainable or CO2-neutral practices are becoming more resilient, competitive and economical.

“We see that [businesses are turning to sustainability] increasingly, but we want to see a lot more to be honest, “Zafiriadis said.

“It’s really about companies being able to adopt sustainable business practices as an operational priority.

A drone shot of land with a couple of large sheds and buses lined up.
Green hydrogen fuel will be produced at the Emerald Coaches depot using rainwater with a renewable-powered electrolyzer.(Supplied by: Emerald Coaches)

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