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Hydrogen freeway from Joburg to Durban – This is the plan

EE Business Intelligence and the British High Commission to South Africa held a webinar this week where they laid out plans for South Africa’s future in hydrogen technology.

The webinar – titled 2nd Renewable Hydrogen and Green Powerfuels Webinar for South Africa – included speakers from Sasol and Toyota South Africa, and members of parliament.

Fleetwood Grobler, CEO of Sasol, stated the company wants to push hydrogen technology and renewable resources in the country, in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change.

In partnership with Toyota South Africa, they want to create a “hydrogen mobility corridor” on critical roadways such as the “N3 route between Durban and Johannesburg”.

“We see the creation of hydrogen hubs or ecosystems as a practical or affordable way to scale deployment of hydrogen in the transport sector,” said Grobler.

Sasol has partnered with Toyota South Africa to develop the proof-of-concept N3 corridor as a way to test if green hydrogen technology is feasible in South Africa.

“To initiate the project, the parties have determined that it would be appropriate to pursue the introduction of FC trucks into South Africa,” added Sasol.

The companies have already started sourcing fuel-cell-operated heavy-duty trucks that will haul cargo between the two points, and the project will commence “as soon as various elements of the supply chain are available”, according to Grobler.

Sasol said that they would partner with other companies, too, as a way to spread knowledge about the subject throughout the country.

“Our partnership with Toyota, which will include other partners over time, aims to build a sustainable end-to-end infrastructure for hydrogen mobility, initially focused on piloting the concept.”

Toyota expects to introduce a prototype truck to South Africa as soon as it is done being developed, and further plans are in the loop to enter the bus and passenger vehicle segments, too.

Toyota said they are aiming to deliver their first locally-manufactured hybrid car to South Africa in August.

If you would like to read Sasol’s coverage of the webinar, click here.

How does hydrogen work?

“Green” Hydrogen is made from electrolysis and water.

In plain English – vast amounts of electricity runs through the water by means of electrodes (power conducting rods), and this, in turn, causes a chemical reaction where the water splits into hydrogen and oxygen gas.

The hydrogen is then stored for use.

Hydrogen fuel cells are the main competitors to pure-electric cars when it comes to replacing fossil-fuel vehicles.

As the name suggest, the fuel cell is a type of “battery” in which the hydrogen can be pumped into and used to propel a vehicle.

Inside the cell an anode and a cathode are sandwiched around a central electrolyte.

Hydrogen is fed to the anode while air is sent to the cathode. The pressurised hydrogen molecules will then be split into protons and electrons when they come in contact with the platinum catalyst.

The electrons flow through an internal circuit, thus creating the flow of electricity used to power the car.

The cell will continuously create power as long as it has enough hydrogen in it, mimicking the process of an internal combustion vehicle.

Filling up with hydrogen will follow the same process as with petrol, too, in terms of using a pump to fill a tank in your car.


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