Green Report: Hydrogen Fuel Cells Gather Steam as Viable Fleet Option

Posted on March 18, 2013 by Alex Roman, Managing Editor

Page 3 of 4

Capital Metro began testing its Proterra fuel-cell electric bus in June 2012. The bus services shuttle routes for the University of Texas, with the program slated to last a year.
Capital Metro began testing its Proterra fuel-cell electric bus in June 2012. The bus services shuttle routes for the University of Texas, with the program slated to last a year.

Mining data

Last June, Austin, Texas-based Capital Metro and the University of Texas Center for Electromechanics (UT-CEM) introduced a hydrogen hybrid bus into operations among the UT shuttles as a part of a year-long demonstration to test and further refine fuel-cell technology for public transit.

“We have done quite a bit in terms of greening the organization, and looking at clean fuels is certainly one of those, so it just fit in with what both our community and our agency are working on,” says Todd Hemingson, VP, planning, for Capital Metro.

The Austin one-year demo represents the second phase of the project supported through the FTA’s National Fuel Cell Bus Program and managed by the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE). The bus previously operated in Columbia, S.C.

“What FTA really wants out of this project is data,” explains Erik Bigelow, project manager, technology development, at CTE. “FTA wants to know how efficient the buses are and how available they are, because both of those factors play a huge part into the economic decision on whether to go for an advanced technology bus [in the future].”

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.

“When this bus rolls on the street, it is actually replacing one of our regular buses,” says Andrew Murphy, quality assurance manager for Capital Metro. “By doing that, we didn’t have to add a driver and are not incurring a huge expense, so we are able to participate in a program like this without having to outlay a bunch of money.”

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 is also being reported to the FTA and the NREL for further analysis.

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