State govt urged to reevaluate hydrogen bus project

Dr Kelvin Yii

KUCHING, June 30: Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii is urging the Sarawak government and Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg to reveal details about and reconsider the state’s hydrogen bus project.

In a statement, Dr Yii asserted that since the announcement of the introduction of hydrogen buses in the state in 2017, the trial run in August 2019 and the launching of the bus service for the public in January 2020, the state government has yet to reveal the feasibility and economic logic for the usage of such buses.

“Since the implementation of RMCO (Recovery Movement Control Order) and the resuming of public bus services, is there a reason that the hydrogen bus is yet to be seen operational in Kuching?

“In October last year, there was already a problem with the bus and I believe the public has the right to know how much was spent to rectify that issue that time,” he added.

Dr Yii also asserted if the state government intends to restart the usage of such buses in the near future, it is imperative to reveal its cost-effectiveness, such as how much it costs per km for the bus to travel in comparison to the common electric bus, especially since the cost of a hydrogen bus is almost double the cost of a common electric bus.

“Abang Johari once mentioned that the cost of such public transportation will be cheap, considering the fact that hydrogen is extracted from water, which is abundant in Sarawak.

“The reality is that, while water is abundant, and the problem is the amount of energy needed to electrolyse water into hydrogen, and then convert it back into electricity to charge the batteries in the buses is not cheap.

“On top of the production process or ‘electrolysis’ that is not cheap, the cost of building fueling stations itself will also be costly. Storing and distributing hydrogen safely requires high specialisation and thus will incur high cost,” he added.

Dr Yii also pointed out that Sarawak already has readily available renewable and sustainable energy through all the mega dams in the state, which can be pumped directly into the common electric bus, a cheaper and simpler alternative.

He added these buses can easily be charged using the grid anywhere, anytime, without investing in a hydrogen infrastructure and distribution network.

He also asserted battery technology is developing much faster than electrolysis with the availability of super capacitors, and charges instantly, with lower maintenance cost and a better lifespan that is already in advanced trials even in China.

Electrolysis on the other hand, he added, requires a huge scientific breakthough to be economically and scientifically viable.

“We have to be pragmatic in addressing the core issues of public transportation in Sarawak. Just because we have the money or a big reserve, doesn’t mean we can just simply spend it on items that will not be cost-effective for the people especially in the long-term.

“Therefore, I strongly urge Abang Johari to reconsider such implementation and not waste more money on a project that may not be cost-effective and feasible in Sarawak.” — DayakDaily