So far 2013 has been an exciting year for fuel cell buses, with a host of news reports from the U.S. and abroad.

The Word is "More" for Fuel Cell Buses

Sandra Curtin and Maura Welch for | Fuel Cells 2000

So far 2013 has been an exciting year for fuel cell buses, with a host of news reports from the U.S. and abroad.  The common theme is newer technologies and more procurements - meaning that more fuel cell buses will be hitting the streets during the next two years.

United States:

The University of Delaware (UD) will be adding two additional fuel cell buses to its fleet, bringing its total to four.  The first two fuel cell buses debuted in 2007 and 2009 and are used to transport UD students around campus.  The new buses, which will be placed in service during 2013, will feature improvements over the earlier prototype buses.  In addition, an Air Liquide hydrogen fueling station will also be installed at the school’s Science Technology and Research campus.  The fuel cell bus program is a project of the university’s Fuel Cell Research Laboratory and is supported with funding from the Federal Transit Administration.  All four buses utilize fuel cells from Ballard Power Systems.

Connecticut Transit (CTTRANSIT) will procure a new, 40-ft., heavy-duty, fuel cell-powered bus from the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE), based in Atlanta, Georgia.  This will be the first-ever commercially procured fuel cell bus in the United States, acquired using a standard Request for Proposal (RFP) process.  CTTRANSIT expects to receive the new bus, which will feature a Ballard fuel cell, by the fall of 2014.  CTTRANSIT’s fuel cell buses operate on local bus routes around the greater Hartford area.  The transit agency, which has operated fuel cell buses since 2007, also operates a UTC Power fuel cell system that supplies more than 75 percent of the electrical power needed at its Hartford bus maintenance and storage facility.

Image source: CTTRANSIT

CTE has also begun a new fuel cell bus project that will design, build, test and demonstrate a state‐of-the‐art hybrid fuel cell bus that will feature the latest transit technologies from bus manufacturer, Proterra, and fuel cell manufacturer, Hydrogenics.  The bus will be demonstrated by CapMetro (Austin, Texas) for one year, followed by another year-long demonstration by the Washington, D.C. Department of Transportation.

The California Fuel Cell Partnership recently released, “A Road Map for Fuel Cell Electric Buses in California: A zero-emission solution for public transit.” The report focuses on the status of FCEB commercialization in California and worldwide and provides suggestions for policymakers on effective means of incorporating fuel cell buses into the commercial market.

Image Source:  Golden Gate Transit

Also in California, Golden Gate Transit began operating a third-generation hydrogen fuel cell bus as part of Zero Emission Bay Area (ZEBA), a group of five transit agencies (AC Transit, Golden Gate Transit, Santa Clara VTA, SamTrans, and San Francisco’s Muni) jointly operating 12 zero-emission, fuel cell buses in real-world service throughout the San Francisco Bay Area– the largest collection of fuel cell buses in the U.S.   

In related news, ZEBA member AC Transit was one of 17 recipients of the Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA) awards for building the most comprehensive hydrogen fuel cell demonstration program in the country.  The agency has also built hydrogen fueling stations that use solar energy to produce a share of the hydrogen it uses to propel its buses, and is currently installing a 400-kW, biogas-powered Bloom Energy fuel cell system that will generate sufficient electricity to power its largest operating division.

AC Transit bus fleet.  Image source: Fuel Cells 2000

In southern California, BurbankBus plans to demonstrate a battery-dominant, plug-in hybrid bus that will feature two 16-kW Hydrogenics fuel cells and a plug-in lithium titanate battery.  The battery pack will provide primary power to the motor, while supplemental charging will be provided by the fuel cells and by regenerative braking while the bus is in operation.

Image source: BurbankBus

We also just found this neat statistic – just a year ago the National Renewable Energy Lab and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) reported that, “each fuel cell bus put into service in the U.S. could reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by 100 tons annually and eliminate the need for 9,000 gallons of fuel every year over the life of the vehicle.  For buses currently running on diesel fuel, that translates into a savings of more than $37,000 per year, per vehicle.“

Canada and Europe:

Not only focused on the U.S., Canadian fuel cell manufacturer, Ballard Power Systems has been busy with several recent international announcements.  First, Ballard announced that is has signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with its partner Azure Hydrogen Corporation of Beijing, China, to extend the scope of their collaboration to include fuel cell buses.  Ballard also recently stated that its fuel cells will power about 80 percent (40 of 50) of the fuel cell buses used in public transit revenue service on European roads in 2014.  Twenty-seven of these buses will be manufactured by Ballard’s partner, Van Hool, and will be operated in Oslo, Norway (5 fuel cell buses); Cologne, Germany (2); San Remo, Italy (5); Flanders, Belgium (5); and Aberdeen, Scotland (10).  In addition, Ballard was awarded approximately CAN$2.0 million (US$1.9 million) in funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada for a one-year extension to an earlier CAN$4.8 million (US$4.7 million) award to further commercialize its FCvelocity™-HD6 power module for use in the transit bus market.  

Finally, two Mercedes-Benz Citaro FuelCELL Hybrid shuttle buses have debuted at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Karlsruhe, Germany.  The buses operate on a 15-km, dedicated bus route for the students and employees, linking the Campus North, Campus South and Campus East stops at 30-minute intervals.  The new buses feature improved fuel cell components and hybridization with lithium-ion batteries, saving 50 percent more hydrogen than the previous generation of Citaro fuel cell buses and reducing the number of hydrogen tanks from nine to seven, for a total of 35 kg. of hydrogen.  A hydrogen fueling station was also commissioned at the KIT North campus.

More fuel cell buses will be deployed in the U.S. during 2014/2015 (see the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s fuel cell bus chart here) and additional fuel cell bus demonstrations will take place in Europe through the CHIC (Clean Hydrogen In European Cities) project.  Keep an eye out for fuel cell buses coming your way!


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