Fuel Cell Transit Scores U.S. Grants

In the counted-by-the-billions world of Washington budgets, it’s small potatoes. But backers of using fuel cell technology in transit buses got a sweet holiday gift from the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) in the waning days of 2010 – nearly $16.6 million in funding for eight projects around the country.

CALSTART, an alternative-transportation consortium based in Pasadena, Calif., was a big winner in the FTA announcement. It grabbed $7.2 million for a UTC Power project focused on a next generation fuel cell that could be used commercially in transit buses. CALSTART also scored nearly $3 million to work with Ballard Power Systems to develop and conduct in-service testing with Chicago’s Regional Transit Authority fleet.

Hydrogen fuel cell bus motor, Ballard Power Systems

image via Ballard Power Systems

The goal there is to demonstrate a fuel cell bus in a large transit agency, with the potential for larger fleets of cell bus procurements, and to develop and demonstrate new technology that enables fuel-cell buses to work smoothly in cold climates.

The rest of the FTA money went to projects led by the Atlanta-based Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE). CTE will lead six projects, including: one to develop and demonstrate a highly-efficient 35-foot Proterra fuel cell bus with an enhanced Ballard HD6 fuel cell and fast-charging capabilities, including demonstrating the bus in revenue service; one for the development and demonstration of a 30-foot battery-dominant fuel cell bus, incorporating advanced lithium battery technology, with improved range, acceleration and fuel economy; and another project to integrate an advanced Ballard fuel cell with hybrid drive/energy management and storage systems into a commercially viable transit bus using an existing hybrid platform.

More information on U.S. investment in fuel-cell techonology is available here on the National Renewable Energy Laboratory website.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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