June 7, 2012

Cap Metro launches hydrogen hybrid bus pilot program

One of the most technologically-advanced buses in the world is about to begin serving transit riders in Austin, Texas. Capital Metro and the University of Texas Center for Electromechanics (UT-CEM) are to launch a hydrogen hybrid bus into operations among the UT shuttles as a part of a yearlong demonstration to test and further refine fuel-cell technology for public transit.

Partners recently involved in the project held an event to celebrate the kickoff of the zero-emission bus into passenger service this month.

The Austin demo represents the second phase of the project supported through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) National Fuel Cell Bus Program and managed by the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE). The program aims to significantly improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions among transit vehicles. The bus previously operated in Columbia, S.C.

The prototype bus, built by Proterra from the ground up as a zero-emission bus, has plug-in rechargeable batteries, a hydrogen fuel-cell system and an efficient all-electric drivetrain. Water vapor is the only emission. The bus will alternate among the Forty Acres and Intramural Fields routes.

The bus will be fueled daily at a state-of-the-art hydrogen fueling station on the J.J. Pickle Research Campus, the first of its kind in Texas. The fueling station allows for the on site generation, compression, storage and dispensing of hydrogen.

Data collection during the demonstration will be reported back to the FTA and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for further analysis.

“By analyzing daily performance data from the bus and fueling station, UT-CEM aims to address technology challenges and further commercial acceptance of hydrogen fuel cell technologies,” said Dr. Robert Hebner, director of the Center for Electromechanics.

The demonstration in Austin is the result of a collaboration between local and national partners including: FTA, CTE, Capital Metro, First Transit, UT-CEM, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality,  the State Energy Conservation Office, Proterra, Gas Technology Institute, Hydrogenics and Signature Transportation.

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