An investigation into the required investment to transition the heavy-duty vehicle sector of New Zealand to hydrogen
Thesis (MEng)--Stellenbosch University, 2021.
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector is known to be an important contribution to climate change mitigation. With looming climate commitments, it is becoming increasingly important for New Zealand to develop a plan for addressing these emissions. Some parts of the transport sector are particularly difficult to decarbonise. This includes the heavy-duty vehicle sector, which is considered one of the “hard-to-abate” sectors of the economy. Heavy-duty vehicles are difficult to decarbonise because they are sensitive to weight, range, and refuelling duration. Current batteries cannot compete with the high energy density of diesel as they are too heavy and take too long to recharge. Transitioning from diesel trucks to hydrogen fuel cell trucks has been identified as a potential way to decarbonise the sector. If the hydrogen is produced with electrolysers powered by renewably generated electricity, then the vehicles would have negligible carbon emissions. Hydrogen produced in this way is known as “green” hydrogen. The current and future costs and efficiencies of the technologies enabling a transition to green hydrogen remain unclear. In light of these uncertainties, the primary aim of this study is to investigate the investments required to decarbonise New Zealand’s heavy-duty vehicle sector with hydrogen; by applying systems thinking. The transition from diesel trucks to hydrogen fuel cell trucks forms part of the energy-and sustainability-transition literature. To better understand the potential transition to hydrogen, a “systems thinking” approach is applied, and simulation modelling is identified as an appropriate tool with which to investigate the transition. Of the three simulation modelling techniques assessed, system dynamics modelling (SDM) is found to be the most appropriate technique for this study. As an SDM methodology designed specifically for modelling hydrogen transitions could not be found, one was created. This was done by combining aspects of the SDM literature with the hydrogen transition modelling literature. The resulting modelling process ensured that aspects of particular importance to hydrogen transitions were not neglected. Using this synthesized modelling process a system dynamics model was constructed. The model was tested to develop a high degree of confidence in the model and to ensure that the model limitations were well understood. The modelling period was set from 2020 to 2050, which is when New Zealand hopes to achieve carbon neutrality. Subsequently, five scenarios were designed and modelled in a manner that explores the wide range of potential outcomes. The results of the scenarios are analysed in order to draw insights from the study and to make recommendations for policymakers. The total investment requirements are assessed by considering the hydrogen production capacity investments, and the investments required to supply marginal electricity to the hydrogen production systems. Production capacity investments are found to range between 1.37 and 2.02 billion New Zealand Dollars, and marginal electricity investments are found to range between 4.33 and 7.65 billion New Zealand Dollars. These investments represent scenarios in which 71% to 90% of the heavy-duty vehicle fleet are decarbonised with fuel cell trucksby the end of the modelling period. The wide range of these findings reflects the large uncertainties in estimates of how hydrogen technologies will develop over the course of the next thirty years. Numerous policy recommendations are drawn from the results of the scenarios. Most notable is the finding that even pessimistic assumptions of progress in hydrogen technology indicate that fuel cell trucks will become competitive with diesel trucks well before 2050.The importance of having a regulatory authority that facilitates and oversees the hydrogen transition is also recognized. Finally, clear opportunities for future work are outlined. These opportunities include data collection, model expansion, and a comparison of the model results to alternative studies that research the investments required to decarbonise the heavy-duty vehicle sector with alternative technologies such as battery-electric trucks, biodiesel, and catenary systems.
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