Hydrogen Bus Cleans Up Military Base Commute

Located south of Tacoma, Washington, Joint Base Lewis-McChord is a massive military facility that combines the U.S. Army’s Fort Lewis and the U.S. Air Force’s McChord Air Force Base. Taking up almost 16 square miles, the sprawling installation has more than 25,000 soldiers and civilian workers and supports over 120,000 military retirees and more than 29,000 family members living both on and off post. JBLM is so huge that it encompasses 115 live fire ranges, its own correction facility, a vet treatment center, a museum and dozens of combat units.

Now, according to the Army, getting around JBLM just got a bit greener. As part of a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Initiative, JBLM received a hydrogen bus to develop a route to take airmen and soldiers, civilian employees and family members around the base. The two-route, free shuttle system will cover main roads from McChord Field to Lewis Main and Lewis North.


image via JBLM

Tom Olsen, JBLM directorate of public works air program manager, has been working on the Hydrogen Fuel Initiatives on the installation, including hydrogen fuel- powered forklifts and a fuel station. The bus is the one piece of the project that everyone at JBLM can really see and potentially use. The time to embrace public transportation is now according to Olsen.

“Though it’s cool to own your own car, it doesn’t mean you have to drive it everywhere,” Olsen said. “The bus gives folks options to get out of their car and take a form of mass transit, and in this case a form of mass transit that emits no emissions.”

Steve Duda lives in West Seattle, WA with three dogs and a lot of outdoor gear. A part-time fly fishing fishing guide and full-time writer, Steve’s work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Seattle Weekly, American Angler, Fly Fish Journal, The Drake, Democracy Now! and many others.

    • Where does that hydrogen come from?  More than likely reforming natural gas, which releases CO2 and costs 2X-3X as much energy as just using battery power.
      Proterra sells battery electric busses, that would have been a much better choice here. We have TONS of super clean hydroelectric power here in the Northwest.  The choice of a  hydrogen bus over battery electric is just not the smart energy and cost decision here. 

      •  Germany is linking solar plants to hydrogen electrolyzer and storing it for peak.

        Hydrogen can be generated from solar, wind and dam power.

        The long range and low weight compared to heavy dangerous batteries make Hydrogen fuel cells the superior choice for all uses.

      • Pete

        Thanks for your comment Turbo Froggy. As noted in my reply to Stu above, we have added a paragraph to the story noting that the hydrogen is produced from the wastewater treatment plant at the base.

        Pete Danko
        Managing Editor, EarthTechling

    • This is fantastic…love to see the military taking the leading edge and making it work.

      Washington State with its rich network of dams, and potential for wind and solar, could eventually produce all of the hydrogen it needs for cars, trains, planes, ferries!    As a state we could be completely energy independent by using Hydrogen as a universal standard.

    • Stu

      Actually under the project, the hydrogen used for bus operations would be created from the digestor gas from the facility’s waste water treatment plant…but the operation can be supplemented with NG generated hydrogen as well…

      • Pete

        Stu, thank you for tipping us to that fact. I’ve now added a paragraph to the story noting the methane–> hydrogen project that is producing the hydrogen.
        Pete Danko
        Managing Editor, EarthTechling