The 2010 Winter Olympic Games, hosted in Vancouver, British Columbia will soon become host to the world’s largest fleet of hydrogen fueled fuel-cell buses. 20 zero pollution, fuel cell powered transit buses will be debuted on a worldwide stage throughout the February event.
BC Transit, headquartered in Victoria, British Columbia, raised US$84 million for the project. Funding was provided by federal government of Canada ($45 million), the provincial ministry ($10 million), and BC transit ($34 million).
Each 40-foot bus will come equipped with 37 seats and a 60-person standing capacity. With a top speed of 90 (56 mph) km per hour these low-floor buses with 6 hydrogen tanks atop the roof will look and act similarly to a “normal bus,” with a few improvements, of course. These futuristic buses are twice as efficient as their internal combustion grandparents and produce no smog-creating emissions; only water will exit the tail pipe. Passengers will notice a smooth ride and no engine noise as it pulls away from the curb.
Each bus is powered by a 150-kilowatt(FCvelocity(TV)-HD6) hydrogen fuel cell manufactured by Ballard Power Systems. The cell is fueled with compressed hydrogen that is stored at up to 5,000 psi in six hydrogen cylinders on the roof.
“The fuel-cell buses will be stationed in a new, state-of-the-art facility in Whistler that will include hydrogen-safe maintenance bays and fueling infrastructure allowing for fast filling of the vehicles targeting 10 minutes,” said Tavin Tyler, director of ISE’s fuel cell bus programs. When the bus needs to stop, braking resistors reduce brake pad maintenance, improve handling, and aid in heating capacity for passenger comfort. The electronics are controlled by the latest ISE hybrid energy management system which handles power flow between the fuel cell, energy storage and the drive motors.
In order to match the specifications of a traditional bus, the hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles were thoroughly tested to ensure performance. The buses achieved a vehicle range of approximately 500km and an acceleration of zero to 50 kmph in less than 20 seconds. Since they will be operating in mountainous terrain, the fuel-cell vehicles were tested to handle an eight-percent constant grade and a 20 percent grade from a stand-still. In order to simulate overnight weather conditions in Whistler, the vehicles underwent overnight cold chamber soaks and performance driving at -20 degrees Celsius. There are no formalized codes yet for hydrogen vehicles, but the buses met Canadian road worthiness standards.
At an individual cost of $2.1 million, each hydrogen fuel-cell bus runs about four times the cost of a conventional diesel bus, a price that has already dropped from $5 million just a few years ago. “It’s now probably dropped, at volumes of 20 or more, to below $2 million. It’s still quite expensive, but it is getting into the area where more agencies want to bring in a few vehicles and start promoting that volume to bring the price down even further,” ISE Corp. CEO Rick Sandler explained.
Total funding of $84 million covers capital and operating costs until March, 2014. Life cycle costs will be evaluated over the next few years to determine if fuel cell buses will be put into service in other regions.
The development of this hydrogen bus fleet demonstrates British Columbia’s commitment to fuel cell technologies, and is just part of the Province’s overall plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 33% by 2020. This fleet alone will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1800 tonnes per year in BC and will showcase cutting-edge fuel cell technology to the world.