By: Fabian Cotter, Photography by: courtesy Emerald Coaches

QUEENSLAND private bus operator Emerald Coaches is to convert its fleet of 120 buses to 'green' fuel-cell hydrogen power via an approx. AUD$100 million project running until 2040, it announced today.

Emerald Coaches directors Michael and Rachel Baulch will convert their entire 120-bus fleet to self-sufficient-use fuel-cell hydrogen by 2040, the duo says.

The ‘going green’ transition would make Emerald Coaches the first of its kind in Australia to, "…commit to a zero-emissions target by introducing hydrogen fuel cell electric buses to their fleet from 2022."

As the largest provider of school bus services in the Central Highlands, the company will complete more than 1 million passenger trips per annum on hydrogen-powered buses starting at the end of next year.

In a timely announcement ahead of the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow this weekend, the project will offer a, "…completely sustainable transport solution" with "…benefits to the environment, local community, and passengers" and is "…estimated to cost approximately $100 million dollars," according to the company.

Emerald Coaches’ diesel-powered vehicles currently use in excess of 1 million litres of fuel every year, producing 3,100 tonnes of greenhouse emissions, it explains. Under the ‘e-Mission zero project’, the entire fleet will be replaced by 2040, 10 years ahead of the Federal Government’s net-zero emissions target, it states.

Most interestingly, the ‘green hydrogen’ will be produced at Emerald Coaches location itself – in Emerald, Queensland - using rainwater captured onsite with a renewable-powered electrolyser generating hydrogen to power the entire fleet.

Ultimately, the project will provide Emerald Coaches with complete fuel security and price stability, it adds.

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"Australia’s transport industry is one of the most energy intensive in the world. We believe renewable hydrogen is the future of the transport industry," said Emerald Coaches director, Michael Baulch.

"It’s a natural gas that is extracted from water making it a completely clean and sustainable fuel source. The only thing to come out of the exhaust is water," he explained.

The first two vehicles are planned for 2022, with the entire fleet to be powered by hydrogen fuel cell electricity by 2040, Emerald confirms.

"We have proudly provided transport services for the past 40 years. By leading the way and being the first to commit to zero emissions, we are hoping to have a positive impact on our community and our team and encourage other business sectors to consider doing things differently," said Rachael Baulch, director Emerald Coaches.

"There will be many opportunities to provide jobs and ongoing education in a completely new and innovative space, right here in Emerald," she explained.

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Interest in hydrogen as a renewable energy source is on the rise around the world and green hydrogen is the cleanest form of this natural gas, Emerald outlines.

Hydrogen is considered ‘green’ if the production process is powered by a renewable energy source, it adds. Emerald Coaches will produce hydrogen onsite using rainwater and solar power, the company confirms. This closed-loop system will provide complete fuel security, price stability and will eliminate the need to transport hydrogen from another facility, states.

With approximately 90 per cent of fuels used in Australia derived from oil sourced from abroad, locally produced green hydrogen will help offset the risk of fuel disruption and price instability, according to Emerald.

"We congratulate Emerald Coaches for their $100 million commitment to convert their diesel buses to hydrogen fuel cell buses," said Mark Bailey MP, Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads.

"The transport industry produces approximately 14 per cent of greenhouses emissions and today’s announcement is a great example of how the private sector can play an important role in seriously addressing the impact of climate change.

"We look forward to working with Emerald Coaches to support them in delivering their zero-emission strategy," Minister Bailey said.

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While the hydrogen-powered buses are the main focus of Emerald Coaches’ e-mission zero strategy, the company will implement other energy-efficiency measures to ensure it is using fully renewable electricity and water in its facilities by 2025, Emerald states. This will include fully renewable power, recycling and rainwater systems, paperless office systems, and water-efficient mobile vehicle washing units, it adds.

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Emerald Coaches is an Australian, family owned and operated regional transport service based in Emerald and Mackay, Queensland, with a fleet of 120 vehicles supplying passenger transport to the mining and resource sector, as well as charter services, it states.

Emerald Coaches’ hydrogen-powered buses will have a range of 800km and will take 10 minutes to refuel, as compared with a battery electric vehicle with a range of 400km and a refuelling time in excess of three hours. This range will allow Emerald Coaches to provide a,"…clean and efficient transport solution to their existing customers including the mining and resources sector."

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