Bringing hydrogen to fleets: Q&A with Dean Acheson, SG Fleet.
Partnering with Hyundai to manage the first hydrogen fleet in Australia, SG Fleet is at the forefront of the roll out of the technology starting in the nation’s capital.
With more than 30 years of experience in fleet management and leasing solutions under their belt, SG Fleet has become one of the most recognisable names in government and corporate vehicle services. The company has truly done it all with expertise in passenger cars to heavy-duty trucks, small fleets to large, and internal combustion engines to battery electric.
Yet there was one technology SG Fleet had yet to take on: hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles or FCEVs. That was until Hyundai approached them with an opportunity that was too good to be refused – to manage the very first hydrogen FCEV fleet in Australia.
Excited to take on the challenge, SG Fleet partnered with Hyundai to deliver 20 units of the automaker’s flagship hydrogen-powered vehicle, the NEXO SUV to the ACT Government.
With a hydrogen station also to be built in the midst of the pandemic, the experience hasn’t always been straightforward. Yet it has provided an invaluable opportunity for SG Fleet to get up close and personal with hydrogen.
With the launch of the Canberra-based hydrogen station now complete and the keys to the NEXO fleet handed over, we spoke with Dean Acheson the State Manager of SG Fleet’s ACT operations on the experience and what’s next as the company gears up to support the roll out of FCEVs across Australia.
Dean, SG Fleet has been supporting the ACT Government’s shift to hydrogen since the project was first announced. What has the company been doing to prepare for the delivery of the NEXO?
The technology behind the Hyundai NEXO is ground-breaking, especially for the Australian market. However, introducing a new zero emission vehicle to the market does come with some hurdles. It’s a challenge that SG Fleet has embraced alongside Hyundai.
Our objective is to see the NEXO seamlessly integrate into the ACT Government fleet. This means the user experience must be as “normal” as possible. Working alongside Hyundai, we have ensured that initial and ongoing fleet management services such as vehicle registration, maintenance and tyre authorisation, toll and infringement management, accident management and roadside assistance all align with standard practices.
Our experience in the vehicle disposal market has also helped us establish a framework of expected future values of the NEXO, which assisted Hyundai to model the cost of the project.
We also worked with Hyundai on the development of Auto Link Fleet with telematics data and details such as the amount of “air purified” by the vehicle being incorporated into fleet reporting for the ACT Government.
The development of the hydrogen refuelling station in Fyshwick faced some delays due to COVID-19, but we’re excited to now have delivered the vehicles to the ACT after providing secure warehousing for the fleet. Our staff have thoroughly enjoyed having the new technology on site.
How does the experience of managing these vehicles differ from your traditional fleet management service offering? Were there any particular challenges?
As the ACT Government’s fleet manager since 2009, we warmly welcomed the announcement that it would adopt FCEVs in their fleet. The vehicles formed part of a successful bid for a renewable energy auction that helped the ACT become the first Australian jurisdiction powered by 100% renewable energy.
At that stage, the NEXO was not in production so there were a number of unknowns still to be determined. The primary challenge was to ensure the vehicle would be fit-for-purpose. Key requirements around safety also needed to be addressed. The NEXO was subsequently awarded a 5-Star ANCAP safety rating.
The NEXO itself is a large SUV that is really well suited to fleets. Hyundai has also developed cargo barriers and roof racks which broadens the range of fleet tasks the NEXO can support.
One of the key requirements for the vehicle was ensuring access to hydrogen refuelling infrastructure. We’ve worked closely with the station provider, ActewAGL, to understand the dynamics involved in this process.
As an example, we will report fuel consumption based on kilograms rather than litres. This is consistent with kWh for battery electric vehicles which we also recently introduced.