Fuel Cell Buses in U.S. Transit Fleets : Summary of Experiences and Current Status
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Fuel Cell Buses in U.S. Transit Fleets : Summary of Experiences and Current Status

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      This report reviews past and present fuel cell bus technology development and implementation, specifically focusing on experiences and progress in the United States. This review encompasses results from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)/National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) fuel cell bus evaluations as well as plans for the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) National Fuel Cell Bus Program. Also provided is an exploration of policy drivers for the development of fuel cell propulsion in transit buses. The primary focus is on descriptive comparisons of fuel cell transit bus operation in the United States and on industry’s need to continue successful implementations of these advanced technologies. The late 1980s and early 1990s were a period of increased interest in reducing transit bus emissions and exploring alternatives to traditional diesel-powered transit buses. As a result, the first U.S. fuel cell bus (FCB) demonstration programs were implemented. These early efforts focused on proving the concept of fuel cells to power transit buses. Most notable was the Georgetown Fuel Cell Bus Program funded by the FTA, which demonstrated its first fuel cell bus in 1994, a 30-ft transit bus powered by a phosphoric acid fuel cell. Much of what was done in the 1990s was proof-of-concept work to verify that fuel cell power systems could be packaged into a transit bus. Those early demonstrations identified areas of development needed to prepare fuel cell propulsion systems for heavy-duty vehicle service. Examples include the following: Reducing the size of the fuel cell stack. Increasing the power density of the fuel cell stack. Reducing the overall weight of the fuel cell and electric propulsion system. Developing a hydrogen infrastructure for vehicle use Optimizing electric motors and control systems for heavy-duty vehicles. Demonstrating that electric propulsion systems are safe for transit vehicles and perform well in environmental extremes (at high and low temperature and humidity). Table 1 is an overview of many of the fuel cell transit bus development projects in the United States, Canada, Europe, and elsewhere around the world, from these early development activities to current demonstration efforts focused on bringing the technology toward commercialization. Figure 1 shows several of the fuel cell buses described in the table.
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