H2X Global is an Australian automotive company that uses hydrogen fuel cell technology to deliver zero-emission vehicles.
Its range of “back to base” logistics vehicles includes vans, taxis, SUVs and buses. ‘I’ve always had this dream to bring cars back to Australia. This is my chance to have a go at it,’ says H2X Global founder and CEO Brendan Norman.
Manufacturing in Australia may be some way off. But the company is making progress. It is fitting its hydrogen fuel cells into commercial vehicles in Scandinavia and Southeast Asia. Its prototype pickup truck, the Warrego, is on the road in the Netherlands.
As a fuel source for electric vehicles, hydrogen has some important advantages:
However, FCEVs need dedicated refuelling infrastructure and that has been slow to develop.
The decision to develop the H2X Warrego in the Netherlands, for example, came down to infrastructure.
‘The Netherlands has been an important base for us,’ says Norman. ‘You can find a hydrogen station within 35–40 minutes of nearly anywhere in the country. We could develop the vehicle and get it on the road quickly.’
In other markets, H2X Global has become crucial for companies that want a full-service option for emission-free commercial transport. In February 2023, the company signed a partnership with Norwegian Hydrogen AS. The partnership aims to create a single channel for production and purchase of green hydrogen, distribution and hydrogen refuelling stations. It also provides customers with vehicle supply and aftersales service.
‘With all our experience in car manufacturing, we tell customers, “You’re coming on an interesting road with us. We know there will be issues, we have people on the ground to help you fix them, and this is how we will work together.” That has really resonated with customers so far.’
Infrastructure challenges also explain H2X Global’s focus on commercial vehicles.
‘The refuelling infrastructure is still more expensive than for petrol and diesel,’ Norman says. ‘Until that’s addressed, we have focused on vehicles that come from and return to the same location.’ One fuelling station can serve those vehicles and get them back on the road quickly.
So far, H2X Global has focused on retrofitting hydrogen fuel cells into existing vehicles. The company’s projects include retrofitting FCEV buses in Vietnam and Malaysia. It is building trucks in Gothenburg for Swedish waste company Renova.
‘We can take new local or locally sourced vehicles and change the power train,’ Norman explains. ‘Working with other vehicle manufacturers means we can use existing platforms that are already proven technology.’
H2X Global also plans to have its own “Darling” series of minicabs, flatbed and utility vans in production by the end of 2024.
‘H2X Global was already well connected in the automotive industry,’ notes Ruth Keane, Austrade Global Engagement Manager, Resources and Energy. ‘We’ve been able to help them create new partnerships through our networks in the energy industry.’
‘Ruth invited us to participate in the Australian Delegation to the World Hydrogen Summit 2022 in Rotterdam,’ says Norman. ‘That introduced us to hydrogen providers that were looking to expand. We ended up creating a joint venture with a company in Vietnam, which is an amazing result.’
Annika Barton, Austrade’s Trade and Investment Commissioner to the Netherlands, Nordics and Baltics, says: ‘H2X Global is a great example of an Australian company harnessing the impact of an Australian delegation at a global event in the Netherlands, as well as Austrade support, to build their global business.’
Austrade’s support is also helping the company explore new regions.
‘We were approached about a potential project in Kenya,’ Norman explains. ‘Within minutes of a discussion with Austrade, we were completely connected into what was going on in the country, understanding the issues, who the players were, and how we can then grow.’
H2X Global has been selected for the Amazon Web Services Clean Energy Accelerator 3.0 as one of only 15 advanced startups. The accelerator facilitates collaborations with mature startups developing breakthrough clean energy technologies.
‘That program also came through the connection with Austrade,’ says Norman. ‘It is an amazing opportunity to showcase what we’re doing and help shape the future of clean energy.’