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America's Cup: Toyota looks to leverage Fuel Cell opportunities off Chase Zero

by Richard Gladwell/ 13 May 03:26 PDT 13 May 2022
Emirates Team New Zealand's Hydrogen powered foiling chase boat is launched from the team's base - May 2022 © Emirates Team New Zealand

Emirates Team New Zealand's foiling hydrogen-powered chase boat has attracted more than its share of cynics.

Neeraj Lala, Toyota NZ's CEO is not one of those.

"This is the first boat to be developed in the world using hydrogen technology. Experts said it would take three or four years, Emirates Team New Zealand have done it within 12 months."

"This project is already creating 'huge waves around the world amongst Toyota distributors globally, where teams like INEOS have approached Toyota Gazoo Europe wanting fuel cells. We're now talking to Toyota distributors around the world on what this technology is and how it can work."

"This project is the catalyst for us to secure fuel cells from Japan. We can offer the fuel cell technology in buses and use it to help to decarbonise the economy in the bus and transport area. This Chase Zero project is the catalyst for us to grow that side of the business.

ETNZ's Hydrogen Support Vessel doesn't use Toyota technology exclusively, and Lala explains that the Chase Zero project collaborates with several suppliers. It uses a Toyota fuel cell, but not with Toyota hydrogen tanks and batteries, which are sourced from other suppliers.

"This is definitely a Kiwi innovation that we believe can be taken worldwide," says Lala.

"Grant Dalton had the vision that these boats could be powered by Toyota Fuel Cell technology and built in New Zealand."

"We've believe that hydrogen fuel cell technology has several commercial applications in New Zealand."

"We don't see hydrogen providing an economic solution for light vehicles over the next 5-10 years. But in Commercial, it has a huge opportunity - which is what this Chase Zero project is all about," Lala explains.

He differentiates Chase Zero and its commercial use of Toyota's Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology as a completely different project from the NZ Government's much-vaunted trial of a fleet of eight hydrogen-powered cars to be shared by a group of NZ Government departments.

It is not hard to pick up his frustration that the recent NZ Govt trade mission to Japan touted the hydrogen-powered car-pool trial, without a mention of Emirates Team NZ's more significant Chase Zero and its use of Toyota's fuel cell technology. Toyota NZ rectified that oversight in a full page newspaper advertorial run the following day, which referenced both the Chase Zero and car-pooling projects.

Lala says it came as a very pleasant surprise that "we were able to secure two pre-production fuel cells for the project.

"Toyota Motor Corporation made them available because the integration is the critical piece to this. Global Bus Engines have been integral in connecting the technologies and ETNZ's Hydrogen Infrastructure partner Hiringa for providing the hydrogen.

"Toyota Motor Corporation has been very open to the collaboration."

"It can be used in buses, heavy freight, and aviation. As well as Commercial, it also has a Domestic application. With our renewal capability in New Zealand, there is a massive export opportunity for green hydrogen in New Zealand.

"We're seeing a lot of Japanese investment coming to New Zealand supporting green hydro generation in New Zealand," he says, rattling off the names of a couple of Japanese conglomerates Obayashi Corporation and Mitsui who have already invested in hydrogen technology in NZ.

"This is a Kiwi innovation that we can take globally," he adds.

Lala says the Toyota presented the fuel cell technology at last weeks Hydrogen Summit in Wellington. "We had a lot of interest and innovations from different industry sectors as to where fuel cell technology might be applicable to them.

"We are now determining which project is going to deliver the most social impact and focus on that. Unfortunately, we can't do everything," said Lala.

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