While the retirement of the Holden brand made it look like the Aussie car industry might be dead and gone – aside from a few low-volume niche players like Brabham and Bolwell – with no chance of revival, a new company going by the name of H2X Australia is looking to change that.
The fledgling company founded by former BMW and Volkswagen executive Brendan Norman has announced plans to produce hydrogen fuel cell-powered passenger cars and commercial vehicles in Port Kembla, New South Wales, with the potential to see vehicles bearing the H2X badge on Aussie roads in as little as merely a couple of years.
Initially, two unspecified heavy vehicles on a larger shared platform with power outputs of between 300-550kW are set to be the first models the company puts into production, reportedly from April 2021, but for the average Joe or Jane like you or I, a mid-size SUV is soon set to follow.
Dubbed the Snowy, it is reported to feature a hybrid drivetrain utilising a 60kW hydrogen fuel cell in combination with a plug-in battery electric system that together power a 190kW electric motor that drives the front wheels, with a claimed range of 650km on the NEDC cycle and performance of 0-100km/h in 6.9 seconds.
Depending on the increased availability of hydrogen filling stations, H2X has a 2022 target in sight for the Snowy’s potential launch.
Those numbers make it a natural rival for the Hyundai Nexo, one of only two hydrogen vehicles available in Australia along with the Toyota Mirai, although neither can yet be purchased by private buyers.
Beyond this, the company also has concepts for hydrogen taxis, vans, MPVs, and tractors, along with plans for marine and rail applications for its hybrid fuel cell technology.
Currently employing 70 staff, H2X Australia looks to add another 100 employees by the year’s end, with the potential to create as many as 5000 Australian jobs eventually.
It also has a target of producing the hydrogen drivetrains in its vehicles with at least 75 percent Australian content by 2024, although initially only around a 30-50 percent local content level can be expected.
Led by CEO Norman and former Alfa Romeo and Maserati design director Chris Reitz, the company clearly means business when you look through its list of staff, with the current team comprised of individuals who’ve previously worked with the likes of Toyota, Tesla, Volvo, Chevrolet, Saab, and Hyundai Australia.
Speaking with the Australian Manufacturing Forum, Norman notes that to be potentially leading a revival of local manufacturing is ‘a dream come true.’
“Seeing car manufacturing move away from the country was somewhat heartbreaking, but given Australia’s leadership in hydrogen we have the opportunity to bring it back. For me it is a dream come true,” said Norman.
“We have two distinct platforms in final stages of development and will be releasing details shortly.
“We will be showing running prototypes of the first model in November, beta versions will be available for trailing by customers in April and we want to be producing in volume in July next year.”
In the same interview, Norman did go on to note as well that, “We are secure in our first phase of business as a sustainable long term business but looking for funding for expansion.”
With H2X noting that Australia has “vast Solar to Hydrogen Networks and one of the world’s least forgiving testing grounds,” it will be interesting to see how Australian conditions and tastes influence its products, and what the interest in them globally will be.
This new venture isn’t the first time Norman and Reitz have collaborated on creating hydrogen vehicles, with the pair previously developing three vehicles for China’s Grove Automotive that were displayed at last year’s Shanghai motor show.