Major Fuel Cell Bus Funding Included in House Bill

Commercially viable fuel cell cars are years away, but fuel cell buses could help bridge the gap. With this in mind, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to include a generous provision supporting fuel cell bus research and development funding in its passage of America’s major transportation legislation, the Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users (TEA-LU). This key provision is one of the few that seeks to address the energy security and climate change challenges created by the nation’s current transportation sector.

California-based WestStart-CALSTART has been working with others to lead a nationwide effort to ensure funding for the National Fuel Cell Bus Technology Initiative (NFCBTI) under the TEA-LU bill. The House voted to provide US$65 million in funding for the research and development of technologies that will make fuel cell buses commercially viable. WestStart-CALSTART and the other NFCBTI supporters believe that the transit bus market is the best early market to target for the development and introduction of vehicular fuel cell technology. With centralized refueling stations and the ability to place hydrogen cylinders on the roof of a bus, two of the major challenges facing the introduction of fuel cells in passenger cars are eliminated. Presently, there are only a handful of fuel cell buses available for testing and demonstration purposes and Europe has been moving quickly in the field. The European Commission is completing a major fuel cell bus demonstration program that has deployed and tested 32 early generation fuel cell buses in 11 different European cities. However, there is a tremendous need to improve the base technologies. In contrast to the European program, the U.S. program would focus more on the key technical challenges preventing fuel cell buses from becoming commercially viable. “Fuel cells offer a tremendous opportunity to improve air quality, reduce dependence on foreign oil, and help prevent climate change,” said WestStart-CALSTART’s President and CEO, John Boesel. “Given these enormous potential societal benefits, it’s entirely appropriate that Congress dedicate at least a very small portion of the over-all $284-billion transportation measure to advance this technology, which is clearly in the pre-commercialization phase.” Boesel added that the following Congressmen and Congresswomen were key supporters of the effort: Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN); Congresswoman Rob Simmons (R-CT); Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher (D-CA); and Congresswoman Mary Bono (R-CA). It’s now up to the Senate to decide if they will allow the provision to remain in the final transportation bill. The National Fuel Cell Bus Technology Initiative is a highly collaborative effort of advanced technology companies and transportation system operators, led by WestStart-CALSTART. In addition to the current national list of 30 industry supporters, new organizations that recently agreed to back funding for the NFCBTI are Nuvera Fuel Cells and U.S. Hybrid Corporation. A complete list of the NFCBTI supporters is attached. For more information on the NFCBTI program, see the following link.
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