FTA Accelerates Hydrogen Bus Development

Oglesby, Bono, SimpsonThe Federal Transit Administration (FTA) awarded $49 million in new funding for hydrogen fuel cell buses. Congress established the National Fuel Cell Bus Technology Development Program in 2005 to facilitate development of commercially viable fuel cell bus technology. Pictured above are Mikel Oglesby, General Manager for SunLine Transit, U.S. Congresswoman Mary Bono (R-CA), a key sponsor of the bill, and James Simpson, the Bush administration’s top transit official, pictured in front of a SunLine hydrogen fuel cell bus.

The FTA goal is to have hydrogen fuel cell buses represent 10 percent of new U.S. transit bus purchases in the year 2015. These exciting awards include a new generation of fuel cells, hybrid electric propulsion, auxiliary power, and lighter aerodynamic bus designs.

$12 million in funding for several major advanced fuel cell bus projects was awarded to CALSTART, North America’s leading advanced transportation organization. The projects will expand upon existing fuel cell bus demonstration programs at AC Transit in Oakland and at SunLine Transit in the Coachella Valley, and introduce a new program for Muni in San Francisco.

The funding complements California’s new Zero Emission Bus regulation which will require over 1,000 hydrogen buses by 2020. Should California Proposition 87 be voted into law on November 7, there may be significant added hydrogen funding.

UTC Power will provide the fuel cells for the SunLine and AC Transit buses with ISE Corporation integrating the fuel cells into their hybrid propulsion systems. The hybrid design currently enables four hydrogen fuel cell buses at these transit operators to use only 120kW UTC fuel cells, yet outperform similar fuel cell buses with more expensive 200kW fuel cell systems.

SunLine currently operates both hybrid hydrogen fuel cell and hydrogen internal combustion engine buses. As part of the CALSTART program, New Flyer and ISE will also develop a new hybrid hydrogen fuel cell bus for Sunline, designed for reliable air conditioned operation in extreme desert heat conditions.

Serving the nation’s capital is Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA). They will be deploying two different advanced hydrogen fuel cell bus programs that will put six New Flyer 40-foot buses into service. In a $6,120,000 program, ISE will integrate a next generation Ballard 180 kW automotive fuel cell technology (HD6) with the ISE ThunderVolt® hybrid drive system into two New Flyer buses. Either ultracapacitors or batteries will be used.

A second $8.35 million WMATA project was awarded to the Northeast Advanced Vehicle Consortium (NAVC). UTC Power will provide its PureMotion(TM) 120 fuel cell power system for four zero-emission fuel cell hybrid electric buses that will be operated in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. UTC Power has been supplying fuel cell bus power plants since 1998 for programs in Washington, D.C., California, Spain and Italy and recently announced orders for Connecticut and Belgium.

On diesel buses, excessive fuel is used to run accessories and air conditioning. Drivers often keep buses idling at stops, rather than turn-off heat in the winter and air in the summer. Long-distance trucks often idle their engines 40% of the time to run accessories.

To run accessories electrically, the FTA is providing $5.35 million for the development of a hybrid electric-diesel bus that uses a hydrogen fuel cell for auxiliary power. San Francisco Municipal Railways (SF Muni) was selected due to their success with 56 hybrid electric buses running on the steepest grades in the nation. A Hydrogenics 12KW twin or 16 KW fuel cell, BAE drive, electrically driven accessories, and advanced energy storage will be used. BAE Systems will provide the hybrid propulsion system and do the systems integration. Accessories to be electrified include: air conditioning, power steering, air compressor, cooling pumps and fans, and heaters for cold climates.

SF Muni’s hydrogen implementation is important for a number of reasons. Muni has the nation’s largest fleet of zero-emission buses, currently using overhead trolley electrification. This infrastructure is expensive to maintain, raises safety concerns, and lacks routing flexibility. Muni’s 2006-2025 Plan includes a Clean Air Plan with the “Zero Emissions 2020” goal of a 100% zero emission fleet by the year 2020. This strategy includes replacing diesel buses with electric drive vehicles.

Muni’s Fleet Engineering Manager, Marty Mellera, sees a major potential for hydrogen in the “Zero Emissions 2020” Plan. Muni’s fleet currently totals 1,045 bus, trolley and light-rail cars.

General Electric Co. formed a $13 million research partnership with the FTA, Ballard Power Systems and A123 Systems to develop a lightweight, battery-dominant hybrid fuel cell bus for the New York Port Authority (NYPA). GE Research will integrate Ballard’s 90kW version of the HD6 module. Because batteries are less expensive than fuel cells, battery-dominant fuel cell designs can lower total capital and operating costs. Either ultracapacitors or Lithium-ion batteries will be used.

It is expected that the GE hybrid fuel cell bus will have a range of 200 miles with accessories operating, and an improved fuel cell life and cost. The focus of the research partnership will be to reduce fuel cell power requirements and improve energy storage technologies, which would help to increase the commercial viability of the technology.

The research will be led by GE’s Global Research Center in Niskayuna. “Advancements in hybrid propulsion systems and battery chemistry offer tremendous promise for enabling cleaner, more affordable transportation alternatives that will reduce reliance on fossil fuels and promote a cleaner, healthier environment,” said Mark Little, director of GE Global Research. Since launching its “ecoimagination” initiative in May 2005, GE has pledged to more than double its level of investment in the development of cleaner energy technologies, from $700 million to $1.5 billion during the next five years.

Hybrid fuel cell buses are currently delivering double the fuel economy of diesel buses. A way to further improve the fuel economy and lower the size of the needed fuel cell is to make the buses lighter and more aerodynamic. Leading the way is Mobile Energy Solutions of Colorado, with buses built from a composite material. The buses will receive one-third of its power from batteries and the remainder from the fuel cells.

Their 37-passenger 35-foot bus, will be demonstrated at Columbia, South Carolina, Birmingham, Alabama, Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut. The energy system has yet to be finalized. It is expected to be battery-dominate with a 32kW Hydrogenics fuel cell. Mobile Energy estimates costs to operate the bus at about 42 cents per mile, compared with 69 cents for a conventional diesel-powered bus. $5.67 million to a 16-member development team for the project through the Center for Transportation and Environment in Atlanta. The total price tag on the hybrid-electric fuel-cell bus project is $13.1 million.

Nuvera Fuel Cells through the Northeast Advanced Vehicle Consortium (NAVC) was awarded a $4.875 million grant from the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) for a hydrogen fuel cell bus and refueling demonstration project at Logan International Airport. Nuvera will be providing one 82 kW fuel cell power module, which will be integrated into a Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) shuttle bus. Additionally, Nuvera is providing a Powertap(TM) hydrogen generation system to provide an on-site hydrogen infrastructure to the fuel cell bus. Other partners in this project include Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), ISE Corporation, Keyspan and AVSG.

Over four million people have been riders on hydrogen buses. Public transit reduces road congestion, saves fuel and emissions by transporting hundreds of millions daily. Public transit brings wide exposure to clean transportation. Public transit is an excellent early adopter of hydrogen because it does not depend on a widespread fuel infrastructure and the fuel storage cylinders can be placed on the roof of buses. Hydrogen buses accelerate the development of fueling stations. Larger capacity production and fueling takes place because these buses use 30 to 50 kg/day of hydrogen. Public transit is accelerating our transition to clean transportation.

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About Author: John Addison

Founder of the Clean Fleet Report, author of Save Gas, Save the Planet. John writes about electric cars, renewable energy, and sustainability. (c) Copyright John Addison. Permission to repost up to a 200 word summary if a link is included to the original article at Clean Fleet Report.