SARTA, Ohio State unveil the first of 10 hydrogen fuel-cell buses

Posted on April 21, 2016

Canton, Ohio’s Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA) and Ohio State University (OSU) unveiled the first of 10 hydrogen fuel cell-powered buses it will acquire over the next two years at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio.

Under the terms of an agreement between SARTA and the OSU, the new bus will be operated on the Columbus campus by the university's Department of Transportation and Traffic Management as part of the Campus Area Bus Service (CABS) for the next 12 months. The unique arrangement will enable Ohio State's Center for Automotive Research (CAR), a nationally-recognized leader in interdisciplinary automotive research, to collect important data on the vehicle's performance in everyday use on campus streets.

During the next year, the bus will travel throughout the Columbus campus with an exterior design that highlights the technology. CABS will provide basic maintenance for the bus, including tire and oil changes, for the duration of the test period.

When all 10 vehicles join its fleet, SARTA will become the third largest operator of fuel-cell buses in the U.S., and the largest outside California. The unveiling ceremony was held in conjunction with the Ohio Public Transportation Association's Annual Conference.

The second of the 10 vehicles will be delivered to the Altoona Bus Testing and Research Center in Altoona, Pa. The vehicle will be put into service in Stark County when testing is completed. All 10 buses will join SARTA's fleet in 2017 and 2018.

"While we'd obviously like to add the buses to our fleet today, our willingness to engage in this type of research and testing is one of the primary reasons we were able to obtain the federal and state funding that is paying for the entire cost of the first two vehicles,” SARTA Executive Director/CEO Kirt Conrad said. "Under normal circumstances, we would have had to come up with a 20% local match to purchase the buses. The Federal Transportation Administration match is not required because we're allowing Ohio State and Penn State to test them. That saved us more than $1.6 million dollars."

These two buses were funded under FTA's National Fuel Cell Bus Program, in partnership with Calstart of Pasadena, Calif., which requires a 50% in-kind contribution. Additionally, the partners for building the bus, El Dorado, Ballard Power Systems and BAE, have also contributed to the in-kind match.

The remaining eight buses were funded under FTA's No and Low Emission program. Five buses were funded in 2015. Last week, Senator Brown announced the award of funding for three additional buses.

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