Fuel Cell Trial for Bus Routes in California

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans) have partnered on a three-year test for a fleet of zero-emissions bus (ZEB) technology in San Jose, California. The $18.5 million program includes the purchase and operation of three ZEBs, and technological enhancements to VTA’s existing Cerone Operations Division to accommodate and maintain the ZEBs.

ZEB engines feature fuel cells, and the 40-foot buses have standard equipment; including air conditioning, ramps for disabled accessibility, destination signs, and audio annunciation systems, which are all powered by electricity generated by the fuel cell. VTA, as the lead agency in the program, contracted with Gillig Corporation of Hayward and Ballard Power Systems of Burnaby, Canada to build the vehicles. Air Products & Chemicals supplies the liquid hydrogen, which is converted to hydrogen gas at VTA’s fueling station at Cerone. The partnership will yield three clean-running, low-noise buses that may prove ideal for use in congested, urban settings like Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, according to the Authority’s press release. VTA and SamTrans are working closely with the California Fuel-cell Partnership (CaFCP) and California Air Resources Board (CARB) to comply with regulations adopted by CARB in February 2000. This new regulation is committed to reducing nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emitted by public transit buses. “VTA appreciates that building an infrastructure that promotes the use of alternative fuels, like hydrogen, is an investment for our future,” said VTA Board Member and San Jose City Council Member David Cortese. “Until that infrastructure’s fully in place, local projects like our joint VTA and SamTrans project can serve to prove that truly clean alternative fuel solutions are not so far from becoming a reality.” The hydrogen for this program is supplied by Air Products’ production facility in Sacramento, which also supplies an industrial customer base in California and the western United States. Hydrogen from Sacramento is liquefied before being transported for delivery to the station at VTA, and then is stored at low pressure. A state-of-the-art pumping system increases the pressure to make it suitable for fueling use for the bus. “We’ve made advances in hydrogen fueling that will be showcased by this bus fleet effort, and VTA should be given credit for taking the lead in transit in California,” said Dave McCarthy, commercial manager of Future Energy Solutions at Air Products. “These buses will be on the road daily, demonstrating that hydrogen does provide a practical, reliable, safe and clean energy source for everyday use.” The VTA/SamTrans joint program includes the operation of three ZEBs in regular VTA service beginning Monday, February 28, 2005 on VTA Bus Lines 45 and 47. The Federal Transit Administration and the U.S. Department of Energy will also participate in evaluating the program, which is funded by 2000 Measure A Local Sales Tax and contributions from local San Mateo County sales tax, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), the California Energy Commission (CEC), and the FTA.

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