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CM urged to reconsider plan for hydrogen buses

KUCHING : Kuching Member of Parliament, Dr Kevin Yii yesterday urged Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi (Dr) Abang Johari Tun Openg to reconsider his plan to introduce hydrogen fuel cell buses on the roads of Kuching by March next year.

He also urged Abang Johari to be more transparent including revealing the cost of the project, contract details with the company involved and most importantly, the economic feasibility study and cost-effectiveness analysis of the usage of these hydrogen buses compared to other renewable energy powered buses including the common electric buses.  

“It was only yesterday that the Chief Minister disclosed that three units of buses would be used as pilot vehicles. “The buses were supposed to be introduced in July this year, but somehow, the project was delayed to next year. I believe a proper explanation of the delay must be made clear.

“When asked about the cost of each bus, the Chief Minister said this was being negotiated but assured that they would not be that expensive.

“How is that an MoU is being signed but the prices of the contract and the buses have yet to be determined? “Were there even a cost effectiveness analysis and feasibility study when the costs of the buses have not been decided? Will this contract also include maintenance after the purchase has been made and how many years will that maintenance agreement last since currently, we might not have the speciality to do it yet? “On top of that, with regards to Foshan Feishi Automobile Manufacture Co Ltd China, on what basis was it chosen as the strategic partner? “Maintenance is an important factor to ensure the highly flammable hydrogen gas will not pose a danger to the bus users.”

Yii added Abang Johari also mentioned that the cost of such public transportation would be cheap, considering the fact that hydrogen was extracted from water, which was abundant in Sarawak. “The reality is that while water is abundant, 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. “On top of the production process or ‘electrolysis’ that is not cheap, the cost of building fuelling stations itself will also be costly. Storing and distributing hydrogen safely requires high speciality and thus, will incur high costs.” The Kuching Member of Parliament added that the  main feedstock for  hydrogen in China also did not come from water only.

“Only 4% comes from water. Most of it are produced from cracking coal (18%), oil (30%) and natural gas (48%). Will the state government be able to guarantee that hydrogen for these buses will come 100% from water or will we still be reliant on fossil fuel? “Thus, I strongly question the direction Abang Johari and the state government are taking with the introduction of these hydrogen buses.

“In Sarawak, our power is already largely renewable (70%+ hydro) and an electric bus can easily be charged using the grid anywhere anytime without investing in a non-existent hydrogen infrastructure and distribution network. “Battery technology is developing much faster than electrolysis. We now have super capacitors that charge instantly, have lower maintenance cost and superb lifespan. They are already in the advanced trial stage, even in China.

Electrolysis, on the other hand, requires a huge scientific breakthrough to be economically and scientifically viable. “Thus, I strongly urge Abang Johari to reconsider such implementation, taking into account the current needs and resources in Sarawak. “We already have readily available renewable and sustainable energy through all the mega dams in the state that can be pumped directly into a cheaper and simpler alternative, which is the common electric bus. “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,” added Yii.

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