Ventura County, Calif.’s Gold Coast Transit District (GCTD) will host a demonstration of a hydrogen fuel-cell bus in early June. The bus, made by New Flyer, will be at GCTD’s operations and maintenance site to be test-driven on several routes over those two days.
While GCTD’s Zero-Emission Transition Plan is still under development, GCTD must strategically decide which type of technology would work best under local operating conditions. There are currently two types of zero emission buses commercially available: battery electric vehicle (BEV) buses, and hydrogen fuel cell electric buses. After thorough analysis of routes and terrain facilitated by project consultant Stantec Inc., GCTD chose to pursue the hydrogen fuel cell electric bus due to its range capability and fueling process. A hydrogen fuel cell bus can travel up to 350 miles on a single refueling and requires no off-board electric recharging, according to the agency.
Unlike buses that run on fossil fuels, a hydrogen fuel cell electric bus is powered by two of earth's most basic components —oxygen and hydrogen. Hydrogen fuel cells produce electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The hydrogen reacts with oxygen across an electrochemical cell similar to that of a battery to produce electricity, water, and small amounts of heat. The electric current is used to power the batteries, which ultimately power the buses.
“We are excited about the potential for hydrogen fuel cell technology and look forward to testing the bus for a few days to give our employees and passengers a glimpse into our zero-emission future,” said GCTD GM Vanessa Rauschenberger.
In 2018, GCTD adopted its zero-emissions policy, which directs staff to prioritize zero (and near-zero) emissions when replacing vehicles. GCTD is currently developing a grant application for funding to purchase five hydrogen fuel cell buses and upgrade its current facility to incorporate hydrogen fueling through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Low or No Emission and Bus Program for Buses and Bus Facilities Program. If awarded, the grant will also provide funding for extensive safety and technical training for GCTD employees in zero emission heavy-duty technology, hydrogen safety, fueling, and operations and maintenance. To date, staff has collected 29 letters of support from local elected leaders, stakeholders, businesses, and community organizations from around the county, expressing their support for GCTD’s zero emissions plan and adoption of hydrogen fuel cell technology.