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Sasol and Toyota form green hydrogen mobility partnership

Sasol and Toyota form green hydrogen mobility partnership
Photo courtesy of Sasol

Sasol and Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) have formed a partnership to explore the development of a green hydrogen mobility ecosystem in South Africa. 

Underpinning the partnership is Sasol’s broad experience in the production, use and marketing of grey hydrogen and aspiration to play a leading role in the establishment of a green hydrogen economy for South Africa, combined with Toyota being a leading global supplier of zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell (FC) vehicles.

Sasol and Toyota will jointly pursue the development of a proof-of-concept demonstration for a green hydrogen mobility ecosystem. The parties intend to develop a mobility corridor and expand the demonstration to a pilot project using one of South Africa’s main freight corridors, such as the N3 route between Durban and Johannesburg, for hydrogen powered heavy-duty long-haul trucks.

To initiate the project, the parties have determined that it would be appropriate to pursue the introduction of FC trucks into South Africa. This supports the available research on FC technology where it is shown that long distance mobility is better suited to FC technology compared to battery electric trucks.

In this regard, there is no current Toyota FC truck available to introduce into South Africa, as this is currently in prototype development in Japan. Toyota South Africa is therefore investigating the introduction of the FC truck to South Africa as soon as available from its principals in Japan. In addition, the parties are evaluating the installation of a hydrogen refuelling station for the demonstration project. TSAM will lead the investigation of the FC truck introduction, with Sasol supporting in providing the required infrastructure expertise.

An enabler for this strategic intent is the expansion of the partnership between Sasol and Toyota South Africa to include other companies and stakeholders along the hydrogen mobility value chain. This is to allow industry to gain valuable first-hand knowledge of hydrogen refuelling stations, the introduction of hydrogen into the heavy duty truck supply chains and the commercial drivers underpinning the hydrogen mobility value chain.

“To unlock green hydrogen opportunities, we are pursuing various demonstration opportunities and partnerships, as with Toyota, with the intent of enabling and taking advantage of technology developments and breakthroughs,” said Fleetwood Grobler, Sasol president and CEO.

“One of the focus areas for Sasol in South Africa is to provide a comprehensive and sustainable mobility solution. Hydrogen and electric vehicles with refuelling and charging infrastructure form part of this sustainable future. We believe hydrogen mobility is a real opportunity for the country to decarbonise the sectors of long-haul and heavy-duty transport, mining and others and see the creation of hydrogen hubs, or ecosystems, as a practical and affordable way to scale the deployment of hydrogen in the transport sector.

“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,” said Grobler.

Toyota has defined aspirations towards 2050 by way of six challenges, each of which is accompanied by globally committed stringent goals. This can only be realised by each Toyota family member around the world contributing to this. The company’s biggest contributor to the realisation of the 2050 challenge is expected to come from diversification of and positioning the ideal mix of new energy vehicles powertrains.

“We are therefore pleased to hear of Sasol’s aspirations and commitment to green hydrogen, as this fits in with Toyota’s global agenda towards a cleaner and greener future. It also made sense to partner with Sasol, given its commitment to develop hydrogen mobility infrastructure in South Africa, which is a much needed enabler to introduce hydrogen products to the country. Toyota envisages this partnership will also create the environment for others to get involved in the hydrogen mobility value chain thereby making sustainable contributions to the South African economy,” said Andrew Kirby, president and CEO of Toyota South Africa Motors.

“Toyota has been at the forefront of hydrogen technology innovation, having introduced the Mirai, the world’s first commercialised hydrogen fuel cell electric sedan, in 2014. Our development of hydrogen fuel cells commenced in 1992 and has evolved to offer our system the flexibility to be used not only in cars, but to also produce zero-emission power in multiple applications – including trucks, urban bus fleets, forklifts and generators,” Kirby said.

At the launch of the new-generation Mirai last year, Toyota’s Chief Technology Officer, Masahiko Maeda, said that at this stage, sales were not the automotive company’s focus. Instead, Toyota has a larger target of contributing to the realisation of a carbon-neutral society. Toyota would like to make it easier for as many people as possible to use hydrogen in their daily lives. This supports the organisation’s long-term sustainability strategy to have a deeper impact on the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The potential of hydrogen to help achieve a future zero-emission society, as set out by the SDGs, is generating fast growing interest and investment globally.

“We are excited about the partnership with Sasol, which we hope will assist in scaling up investment in critical infrastructure such as charging stations and the fuel itself,” said Kirby.

On the potential for green hydrogen, Grobler said: “Green hydrogen can help tackle various critical energy challenges, and is positioned for rapid global growth as the pathway of choice to decarbonise sectors such long-haul transport, chemicals, and iron and steel, where it is proving difficult to meaningfully reduce carbon emissions. 

He added that South Africa is endowed with exceptional renewable energy resources making the country ideal for green hydrogen production, which has the potential to contribute to energy security and trade for South Africa, while facilitating a just energy transition to a lower carbon economy.

“Given Sasol’s broad experience in hydrogen and R&D capabilities, combined with our Fischer-Tropsch and catalyst technologies to enable the production of sustainable synthetic fuels and chemicals, we are uniquely placed to play a leading role in the development of South Africa’s hydrogen economy and just energy transition.

“The new hydrogen economy will be enabled by co-creating hydrogen ecosystems developed through partnerships. The creation of value chain partnerships will be critical to enable South Africa to be globally competitive in the green hydrogen markets.

“Through these partnerships the country needs to build capacity in key elements of the green hydrogen value chain such as renewable energy, electrolyser technology, fuel cell technology, manufacturing, hydrogen-based industrial processes, and sustainable carbon sourcing,” concluded Grobler.