American Fuel Cell Bus Project Evaluation : Second Report
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American Fuel Cell Bus Project Evaluation : Second Report

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    This report presents results of the American Fuel Cell Bus (AFCB) Project, a demonstration of fuel cell electric buses (FCEB) operating in the Coachella Valley area of California. The prototype AFCB was developed as part of the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) National Fuel Cell Bus Program. Through the non-profit consortia CALSTART, a team led by SunLine Transit Agency and BAE Systems developed a new FCEB for demonstration. SunLine added two more AFCBs to its fleet in 2014 and another in 2015. The report summarizes the performance results for the buses through June 2015. The AFCB, built on an ElDorado National 40-foot Axess bus platform, has a fuel-cell-dominant hybrid electric propulsion system in a series configuration. BAE Systems based the prototype AFCB propulsion system on its commercial hybrid electric transit bus product, modified to provide power with a 150-kW Ballard fuel cell system in place of a diesel engine/generator. The AFCB was delivered to SunLine in November 2011 and was put in revenue service in mid-December 2011. The manufacturer team used the early demonstration experience of the prototype bus to make modifications and updates to the system for the next three buses. While the basic design components are the same as that of the prototype, the newer buses feature refinements that should make servicing easier and increase reliability. Changes included a separate cooling system for batteries, a simplified power conversion system, software upgrades, and an improved radiator design to increase integrity. Two new AFCBs were delivered in June/July of 2014 and a third new AFCB was delivered in February 2015. FTA and the AFCB project team are collaborating with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to evaluate the buses in revenue service. NREL has been valuating FCEBs under funding from FTA and DOE and uses a standard data-collection and analysis protocol originally developed for DOE heavy-duty vehicle evaluations. The focus of this evaluation is to compare performance of the FCEBs to that of conventional technology and to track progress over time toward meeting the technical targets set by DOE and FTA. In the commercialization process that begins at technology readiness level (TRL) 1—basic research/concept—and ends at TRL 9—commercial deployment, NREL considers the AFCBs to be at TRL 7. At this point of development, the manufacturers’ goals for the demonstration are to verify that the FCEB performance meets the DOE/FTA technical targets and identify any issues that need to be resolved. NREL collects data on five compressed natural gas (CNG) buses as a baseline comparison at SunLine.
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