Hydrogen Fuel Cell Buses on the Road to Infill
“Reuse, Refuel, and Revitalize – Sustainable Infill Redevelopment in Emeryville”, California, was a mobile workshop as part of the New Partners for Smart Growth conference.
The first stop, or actually start, was on an AC Transit Fuel Cell bus, which runs on oxygen and hydrogen, two of earth’s most common elements. A fuel cell is a compact electrical generator that uses an electrochemical reaction to produce electricity. Unlike a battery, a fuel cell never needs recharging and continues to produce electricity as long as it is supplied with oxygen and hydrogen. Cars with the same technology include the Toyota Mirai, Honda Clarity and Hyundai Tucson.
AC Transit is the largest of several transit agencies road testing this new clean technology under a partnership of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), which benchmarks the performance to those of diesel and battery electric buses (BEB).
While the bus interior is no different from other fleet buses, riders noted the difference from a traditional diesel bus in the quiet and smooth ride. While there were no hills during this tour, these buses navigate hills with ease, better than a BEB. AC Transit finds it reliable, easier to maintain and much faster to refuel than a BEB.
While the jury will not be out on these buses for a few more years, their quiet operation and zero emissions are compatible with compact communities seeking quiet, reliable and clean public transportation. In addition, refueling stations are much safer — no UST leaks — and no diesel spills or batteries to clean up in case of an accident. We’ll take the hydrogen fuel cell over a comparatively-priced bus anytime!
CCLR thanks the California Air Quality Board and AC Transit, particularly Board Member Chris Peeples, and the City of Emeryville for co-hosting the mobile workshop. More information on the AC Transit program can be found here and on an NREL report here.