KUCHING: Sarawak is set to host a automotive assembly plant to produce hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).
The proposed plant will help bring down the cost of hydrogen-powered FCEVs in line with the Sarawak government’s policy for the automotive industry to switch to clean and renewable energy (RE) sources and reduce dependence on fossil fuels, the state’s Deputy Minister of Energy and Environmental Sustainability Dr Hazland Abang Hipni said.
The Sarawak government is currently implementing various initiatives and projects to transform the state to a hydrogen economy.
Details of the car assembly plant project, such as the company involved, the amount of investment and the production capacity, are expected to be revealed later by Sarawak Premier Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg,
There are two types of electric vehicles (EVs), namely, battery EVs (BEVs) and FCEVs.
“There are many BEVs in the market but the origin and source of energy to produce the battery is questionable. That is why Sarawak is focusing on FCEV powered by hydrogen locally.
“The rationale behind the setting up of a car assembly plant here to produce FCEVs is to bring down the price of these vehicles for the locals,” Hazland said after opening the 18th International Conference on Clean Energy 2022 here last week.
According to him, a Japanese brand EV costs about RM140,000 at present and this is deemed as not affordable for most local drivers. He said the state government will import more hydrogen-powered vehicles for the use of state cabinet members and government officials.
Under the Sarawak Green Energy Agenda, a milestone was achieved in May 2019 when the state launched South-East Asia’s first integrated hydrogen production plant and refuelling station in Kuching and the introduction of Sarawak’s first hydrogen-powered vehicles
The hydrogen production plant and refuelling station was built by state-owned Sarawak Energy Bhd, which now owns a fleet of hydrogen powered FCEVs.
Under a pilot project, Sarawak Economic Development Corp (SEDC) is importing more hydrogen fuel cell buses to provide free service in the city. Its subsidiary SEDC Energy Sdn Bhd, recently opened its first three-in-one Petroleum Sarawak Bhd (Petros) petrol stations in the state capital.
Apart form providing refuelling services for conventional fossil fuels (petrol and diesel) vehicles, the station provides electric charging for EVs and refuelling service for hydrogen-powered FCEVs.
A second Petros station is due for completion soon and SEDC Energy plans to build more such stations in major towns such as Sri Aman, Sibu and Miri.
SEDC is also partnering South Korean companies, Samsung Engineering Co Ltd, Posco and Lotte Chemical to develop the first hydrogen plant at the Sarawak Petrochemical Hub in Bintulu.
The plant, the first of its kind in Malaysia, will produce 630,000 tonnes of green ammonia, 600,000 tonnes of blue ammonia and 220,000 tonnes of green hydrogen per annum.
According to Abang Johari, 7,000 tonnes of the green hydrogen produced by the plant will be for domestic use and the rest exported to South Korea.
Hazland said another South Korean investor has expressed interest to invest in a similar hydrogen plant project in Sarawak.
In line with the development of Sarawak’s hydrogen economy and moves to decarbonise the public transport sector, the ambitious billion-ringgit Kuching Urban Transportation System (KUTS), developed by Sarawak Metro Sdn Bhd (SEDC’s wholly-owned subsidiary), will use hydrogen-powered autonomous rapid transit (ART) vehicles.
The KUTS project’s System Package 1 contract worth RM1.425bil was awarded recently. The contract requires the supply of the hydrogen-powered ART vehicles, depot equipment and maintenance vehicles, including signalling and control system and the automotive platform gate.
The project’s civil and structure works are expected to commence in the current quarter and the passenger service for the ART is scheduled to be introduced in stages.