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Brazil rolls out region's 1st hydrogen-powered bus

Jul 1, 2009 - EFE

Sao Paulo - Brazil's Ministry of Mines and Energy and Sao Paulo's Empresa Metropolitana de Transportes Urbanos presented here on Wednesday Latin America's first hydrogen-powered bus, a vehicle that emits no polluting gases.

Sao Paulo state Governor Jose Serra attended the inauguration of the vehicle, which was made in Brazil and began undergoing tests in April.

The bus will function with a hybrid system of a hydrogen cell and electric energy batteries, "a strategy that allows the fuel economy and the streamlining of the energy generated to be increased," according to a ministry communique.

"That ... takes advantages of the possibility of recharging the batteries with the energy produced by the hydrogen cell when the vehicle is stopped," the document said.

The communique added that "the development of a 'zero emissions' mass transport system will contribute to reducing the impact on the environment in large urban areas, like Sao Paulo, which has the largest fleet of buses in the world."

"Motor vehicles are responsible for 90 percent of the pollutants that are emitted into the atmosphere and the majority of buses have diesel motors, which produce high emissions," it added.

The vehicle presented Wednesday measures 12 meters (39 feet) long and has a capacity of 63 people, one of whom can be in a wheelchair. It is forecast that it will cover a route 33 kilometers (20.5 miles) long in Sao Paulo, South America's largest city with almost 20 million residents.

The hydrogen bus's entry into usage is the result of a project developed by the national government and EMTU, a mixed company controlled by the Sao Paulo state government, at a cost of about 31 million reais (around $16 million).

The project, which is scheduled to put five additional buses on the streets, received resources from the federal government and the U.N. Development Program.

According to government figures, Brazil is the largest market in the world for buses and the biggest producer of the vehicles, turning out some 50,000 units per year. EFE