Low-emissions options for heavy transport a step closer

Getting low-emission trucks on NZ roads is a step closer with the Infrastructure Reference Group provisionally approving $20 million for New Plymouth company Hiringa Energy to establish a nationwide network of hydrogen fuelling stations.

Eight stations will initially be located in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Manawatu, Auckland, Taupo, Wellington and Christchurch, and will provide refuelling for zero-emissions heavy FCEVs (hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles), including trucks, buses and commercial fleets, from 2021. Hiringa estimates the initial network will provide coverage for about 95% of heavy freight routes in the North Island and 82% of the South Island.

“This is an exciting development that can kickstart the use of hydrogen as a low-emissions transport fuel for New Zealand’s energy future,” says Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods. “I’m delighted that as we develop our hydrogen strategy we have such exciting hydrogen developments getting underway.”

Linda Stewart, chief executive of the Manawatu Central Economic Development Agency

The project is intended to build the foundation for a national network that facilitates the use of hydrogen for commercial and heavy transport fleets to decarbonise New Zealand’s transport sector. The project’s success will unlock further investment in a network expansion across both the North and South Islands, ensuring green hydrogen refuelling becomes available for all key industrial and heavy transport hubs throughout the country. 


Many of New Zealand’s leading freight, manufacturing, construction, primary produce and retail companies have set themselves aggressive decarbonisation targets for 2030. The establishment of the hydrogen refuelling network will go a long way to helping them achieve these targets. 

A hydrogen-powered truck combines hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2) to make electricity, with water as the only emission. The range and refuelling times of FCEVs are similar to diesel-powered trucks and buses, with a very low noise profile.

“This initiative will have a high impact on transport emissions. Replacing a single diesel linehaul truck with a zero-emission fuel cell version powered by green hydrogen would be the equivalent reduction in emissions as replacing up to 150 average light passenger vehicles,” says Hiringa Energy’s chairperson Cathy Clennett. 

“This funding from the Government plays a critical role in stimulating private investment in infrastructure and gives operators the certainty to invest in fuel cell vehicles. There will be a high multiplier effect from the Government funds committed.”


Andrew Clennett, Hiringa Energy’s CEO, says they have been really encouraged by the leadership across the regions from local government, economic development agencies and iwi groups, who have a crucial role facilitating the establishment of the local ecosystems, connecting in local businesses and investors, and helping identify the relevant skilled job opportunities in this new clean industry.

The initial development will directly create over 50 permanent jobs and over 100 contractor and vendor jobs across the regions. As the network is subsequently expanded, there will be direct employment for over 300 workers across New Zealand. It will build hydrogen technical capability in New Zealand and create opportunities for equipment manufacturing, operations and maintenance, and future technology exports.

Manawatu is set to become a big part of the green hydrogen economy with Hiringa selecting the region for one of its first green hydrogen fuelling facilities, and Linda Stewart, chief executive of the Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA) is delighted. “This is an exciting development that puts the region firmly at the heart of green freight logistics,” she says. “CEDA has worked closely with Hiringa Energy to facilitate this investment by connecting businesses, councils and key stakeholders. This project has been a long-term priority for CEDA and will support regional economic growth.”

Ms Stewart says Manawatu is uniquely blessed with what is needed to make green hydrogen fuel at scale – water and renewable energy. The region has over 500 MW of green wind energy in production, building or consented – a capacity greater than the South Island’s Clyde Dam. “We have excellent locational and logistics advantages, being a distribution point for the lower North Island. It is set to become a nationally important logistics centre with KiwiRail’s regional freight hub, the Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatu Tararua Highway and Palmerston North’s planned regional freight ring road,” Ms Stewart adds.


In late August, Hiringa announced it had signed a heads of agreement with US-based HYZON Motors that will secure access for Hiringa and its fleet partners to the supply of zero-emission heavy FCEVs. The vehicles will be tailored to meet the demanding and unique requirements of the New Zealand heavy freight and road transport sector, and it is expected that the vehicles will enter service in New Zealand from the start of 2021. 

The agreement supports Hiringa and its partners’ strategy to roll out over 1500 FCEVs by 2026, driving the cost of the technology down and unlocking widespread adoption of zero-emission heavy transport. The trucks will come in a variety of right-hand-drive configurations with a gross combined mass (GCM) of over 50 tonnes and suitable for New Zealand operators, with driving distances of up to 500 km. 

“This is an exciting milestone for Hiringa Energy and our partners,” says Hiringa chief technology officer Dan Kahn. “The FCEV truck market is growing rapidly, with enormous demand coming out of the US and Europe, so for New Zealand to be able to secure this agreement with HYZON demonstrates New Zealand’s leadership in how we are approaching the hydrogen FCEV opportunity.”

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