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Fuel Cell Buses Embraced Among Transit Agencies and Passengers; Performance and Reliability Better than Expected in Revenue Service

Apr 16, 2009 - Business Wire

Fuel cell buses have operated successfully in public transit fleets around the world, according to a new report written for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) by the Breakthrough Technologies Institute (BTI) and the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE).

The report examined hydrogen bus demonstrations in 19 cities in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Among other things, the report found that the vast majority of buses performed better than expected and were very popular among passengers. The buses also were popular with drivers, many of whom reported being less tired at the end of their shifts, primarily because fuel cell buses make significantly less noise than their internal combustion counterparts.

"Fuel cell buses were more reliable, better performing, and easier to integrate into public transportation fleets than many had expected," said William Vincent, a lead author of the report. "With additional research and development, they hold real promise to reduce pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and petroleum dependence in public transportation fleets."

The fuel cell buses typically were operated daily in 16-hour duty cycles. Collectively, they covered more than 1.6 million miles and served more than seven million passengers. The fuel cells were much more reliable than many transit agencies had expected and the operating life was increased significantly over previous generations of fuel cell technology. For example, fuel cells in the European demonstrations averaged over 3,000 hours operating life, with a maximum of 5,000 hours. Moreover, the hydrogen fueling stations proved to be very safe. The buses were refueled more than 11,000 times without any major incident.

Based upon this success, most transit agencies that demonstrated fuel cell buses are eager to deploy larger fleets in the future. In fact, AC Transit in California recently purchased four additional fuel cell buses and BC Transit in British Columbia purchased a fleet of 20 fuel cell buses. Many transit agencies also called for enhanced government support for fuel cell buses, thus enabling more buses to be deployed in a shorter timeframe.

The report, "A Report on Worldwide Hydrogen Bus Demonstrations, 2002-2007," can be downloaded free from the FTA's website: http://www.fta.dot.gov/documents/ReportOnWorldwideHydrogenBusDemonstrations_2002to2007.pdf.

SOURCE: Breakthrough Technologies Institute (BTI)