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Hydrogen fuel pumps could be headed for Canberra

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Canberra could become one of the first locations in the country to build hydrogen refueling stations to service next generation fuel cell electric cars.

On Wednesday Hyundai Australia imported the country's first permanent fuel cell electric car and unveiled proposals to build a national "Hydrogen Highway" between Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

In receiving the zero-emissions ix35 vehicle, Australian company chief executive Charlie Kim revealed that the company had been lobbying federal parliamentarians for the last two years for support to build a "hydrogen highway" linking the three cities that would allow fuel cell vehicles to refuel along the route. He said the company's plans to work with governments and private partners to build infrastructure necessary to support mass take-up of hydrogen vehicles had been positively received by federal ministers.

Unlike battery powered electric vehicles, fuel cell cars use hydrogen stored on board and oxygen from the surrounding atmosphere to generate electricity, emitting only water vapor. Despite the difficulties of storing and transporting hydrogen, their main advantage over battery-powered cars is they do not need to be recharged, can be refilled in around three minutes and have a range similar to conventional petrol-powered vehicles.

"A project like 'Hume by Hydrogen' would surely demonstrate the benefits of hydrogen transport very effectively,"  Mr Kim said.

The company has already begun work on building the country's first hydrogen refuelling station at its Macquarie Park headquarters in Sydney which was due to come on line early in the new year.

Head of Hyundai Australia's fuel cell program Scott Nargar said the company had also partnered with Australian company Sefca to install an electrolyser unit that once operational would allow the station to generate hyrdogen on-site using locally sourced water and solar power.

"Could a 'Hume by Hydrogen' highway be built by 2020? Of course. The potential is there for hydrogen highways and for even more ambitious plans to power remote communities using solar and hydrogen technology ... but it will only work if vehicle and infrastructure manufacturers work together with businesses and governments to start planning for a greener future," Mr Nargar said.

Most major car manufacturers have produced fuel cell cars, but several, including Toyota, have not brought these vehicles to Australia because there was nowhere to refuel them.