CM reveals his plan for hydrogen-powered, electric buses

Screenshot of a live online broadcast of DUN proceedings shows Abang Johari (bottom right pic) interacting with Chong (bottom left), who seeks clarification on the electric buses. At top right is DUN speaker Datuk Amar Mohd Asfia Awang Nassar.

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By Geryl Ogilvy

KUCHING, May 9: The Sarawak government will opt for hydrogen-powered buses in the long run despite its immediate plan to switch to electric buses for the public transportation system.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the state had acquired three hydrogen-powered buses that would serve as part of a pilot project and research into having a better green public transportation system.

The state’s first Hydrogen Production Plant and Refuelling Station project is now 100 per cent completed. The testing and commissioning are in progress and expected to be completed by May 27, he added.

“The state will have to use electric buses at this point of time as hydrogen technology is currently being trialled under our R&D (research and development).

“The side effect (of electric buses) is the disposing of the batteries, which is not environmentally friendly. For your information, other countries are shifting from electric to hydrogen buses. It is better for the future,” he said during his winding-up speech at Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting here today.

Abang Johari was also replying to Chong Chieng Jen (DAP-Kota Sentosa), who enquired whether the state government would use electric buses or hydrogen-fueled buses for its public transportation.

According to Chong, the federal government was arranging for a subsidised loan of RM500 million for the consortium of buses in Kuching and other major towns in Sarawak.

“The state has to decide because we can’t have both on the road. Furthermore, it would be more costly to have hydrogen buses running on the roads,” the opposition lawmaker opined.

Chong, who is also deputy minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, said he needed confirmation from the Sarawak government on the type of buses the state planned to acquire, adding that he had spoken to Transport Minister Anthony Loke on the use of electric buses in Sarawak for public transport.

To this, Abang Johari said: “The federal government wanted to assist the state in improving its public transportation system but at the same time, suggested the use of diesel buses.

“We have to decline the usage of diesel buses, and we proposed the use of electric buses for a start.”

In his speech, the chief minister said Sarawak was keen on producing hydrogen for use as alternative green energy because it has abundant water sources that could be converted to hydrogen, for public transport as well as for export.

He pointed out that countries like the United States, Europe, South Korea and Japan were now producing vehicles that run on hydrogen fuel cells due to environmental consideration and depleting fossil fuel resources.

He estimated there were 6,500 hydrogen fuel cell cars sold globally between 2013 and 2017.

“However, the cost of hydrogen production in these countries is much higher due to higher energy cost and fewer water resources. Production of hydrogen from natural gas is not competitive as the production of hydrogen is from water through electrolysis.

“Therefore, Sarawak has all the advantages in producing hydrogen from water at a cheaper cost and using green energy that is hydropower. With the advancement of technology, we should be able to realise the export of hydrogen to these countries in the very near future and will become our next source of revenue for the state just like how we export LNG (liquefied natural gas),” he said.

Abang Johari said the state was also collaborating with Linde Group, a leading global industrial gases company and Hydrogenics, as well as water electrolysis-based hydrogen generators, on the project. — DayakDaily