Zero Emissions

OCTA debuts U.S.' largest hydrogen fueling station, fuel-cell e-buses

Posted on February 3, 2020

OCTA's hydrogen fueling station can support up to 50 fuel cell electric buses per day. CTE
OCTA's hydrogen fueling station can support up to 50 fuel cell electric buses per day. CTE
Calif.'s Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) unveiled the largest transit-operated hydrogen fueling station in the nation and 10 new hydrogen fuel-cell electric buses, representing a $22.9 million investment in zero-emission transit.

The battery-electric Xcelsior CHARGE H2, built by New Flyer, use compressed hydrogen as an energy source. OCTA is also in the process of purchasing 10 plug-in battery electric buses, which are expected to be in operation beginning in 2021.

The hydrogen fueling station can support up to 50 FCEBs per day. The station is located at OCTA’s Santa Ana Bus Base, where it will initially fuel OCTA’s 10 New Flyer FCEBs. These new buses have a range in excess of 265 miles in the OCTA service area and feature an 85 kW fuel cell from Ballard Power Systems.

More than half of that funding — $12.5 million — comes from California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment — particularly in disadvantaged communities.

Fuel cell electric buses are powered by hydrogen, stored as a gas on the vehicle. A chemical reaction — not combustion — within the fuel cell splits apart the hydrogen molecule, freeing up electrons that power the drive motor and electric accessories on the bus. The used hydrogen reunites with oxygen from the air to form purified water and heat. The excess heat is recycled to the bus to warm passengers when needed, and the water is exhausted through the tailpipe.

Other funding for the fuel cell buses comes from SB1 State of Good Repair funds, administered by Caltrans, and from the South Coast AQMD Clean Fuels Fund.

  • The project is also a partnership with Air Products, which designed and provided enabling equipment for the hydrogen fueling station and will provide maintenance and hydrogen fuel.
  • Trillium was contracted for construction, operations and maintenance of the fueling station, and New Flyer provided the buses.
  • Ballard worked on the hydrogen fuel cell electric technology on the buses.
  • And Fiedler Group engineered upgrades to maintenance facilities to safely service hydrogen-fueled buses.
  • CTE, a nonprofit transportation consulting firm specializing in the development of zero-emission solutions for public transit, organized and led the team to successfully win a grant from the California Air Resources Board to launch this project.

The battery-electric Xcelsior CHARGE H2 buses, built by New Flyer, use compressed hydrogen as an energy source. CTE
The battery-electric Xcelsior CHARGE H2 buses, built by New Flyer, use compressed hydrogen as an energy source. CTE
OCTA was the first large public transportation agency in Southern California to operate a hydrogen fuel cell electric bus, debuting a pilot program in 2016.

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