Maybe Norway – always a Winter Olympics powerhouse – liked what it saw in British Columbia? There, at the 2010 Games, a fleet of 20 buses powered by Ballard’s FCvelocity power module shuttled people to and from Whistler. Now we’re hearing that similar buses will soon be rolling in the Oslo area.
Vancouver-based Ballard Power Systems said it struck deal to sell that same hydrogen fuel cell to HyNor Oslo Buss group, which will use it in five 43-foot buses that should go into service by the end of the year.
As always with fuel cell technology, a big question here is how the fuel cells are charged – though they always “burn” clean, producing hydrogen isn’t de facto a pollution-free enterprise. In this case, Ballard said, “the hydrogen will be generated through electrolysis of water, using electrical energy from renewable sources,” making operation of the buses truly greenhouse-gas emissions-free.
The group behind the Norway fuel cell bus effort is a coalition consisting of Ruter transit agency, Akershus County Administration, Oslo Municipality and Zero, an environmental organization. That’s not surprising given the expense of hydrogen buses. A 2007 U.S. Department of Transportation study put the fuel cell costs for an entire life cycle at three times that of diesel, CNG or diesel hybrid buses. However, Ballard said, “Increased volumes of fuel cell-powered buses are expected to support cost and price reductions through scale economies, enabling fuel cell solutions to compete effectively with incumbent transit technologies.”