NRELÂ’s Fuel Cell Bus Evaluations

Feb 20, 2014

If you’ve never seen it before, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a national laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), has a great webpage on fuel cell buses.

NREL evaluates North American fuel cell bus deployments in order to validate zero-emission (ZBus) performance and cost compared to DOE/U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) targets and to conventional technologies. NREL also determines lessons learned that can be used by other bus fleets implementing “next generation” fuel cell systems. Many of these bus projects have received funding from DOE or the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

NREL has published dozens of fuel cell bus evaluations on their webpage over the past few years. Most of these buses are operated by California transit agencies, where early fuel cell demonstrations began a decade ago. These demos were spurred by the state’s Air Resources Board transit bus rule setting tighter emissions requirements and requiring demonstrations of zero-emission buses. Transit agencies in California continue to operate fuel cell buses in daily revenue service (for example 12 fuel cell buses now operate in regular transit service the East Bay area of northern California), and other cities, such as Austin (TX), Chicago (IL), Cleveland (OH) and Columbia (SC), have participated in demos as well. Fuel cell bus fleets have also been deployed in Hartford (CT), where CTTransit has operated fuel cell buses in daily revenue service since 2007, and in Whistler, British Columbia, where a fleet of 20 demonstration fuel cell buses ran in regular transit service in a four-year demo (now completed).

NREL's chart of fuel cell bus evaluations

Two new reports were recently posted on NREL’s fuel cell bus page that are worth a read, and further below are several charts from NREL’s “Current Status 2013” report.

* Fuel Cell Buses in U.S. Transit Fleets: Current Status 2013

* BC Transit Fuel Cell Bus Project: Evaluation Results Report

In recent news, FTA announced the availability of $24.9 million to transit agencies and state transportation departments through its new Low or No Emission Vehicle Deployment Program (LoNo) to encourage more widespread adoption of “green energy” buses into transit fleets. The LoNo program builds on the success of FTA’s National Fuel Cell Bus Program (NFCBP), which committed $90 million over seven years for research, demonstration, and deployment projects to reduce the cost of fuel cells for transit use (NFCBP received its final funding in FY2013).

Fuel cell buses are also being deployed internationally (eg. Brazil, UK, Germany, Japan) and Fuel Cells 2000 tracks recent bus news worldwide. Be sure to subscribe to our monthly newsletter, the Fuel Cell Technology Update to stay current!  Another good source of info is the International Fuel Cell Bus Collaborative.

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