At the ZEB conference, held inside the Busworld exhibition in Brussels, the representative of a transport authority in California presented its strategy for deploying a fleet of hydrogen-powered buses.
And Hydrogen Today spoke to Roland Cordero, Director of Maintenance and Vehicle Technology at Foothill Transit. This agency governs public transport in the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys outside Los Angeles. He began by explaining that electric buses have been tested since 2010. But it takes time to charge them and the range was not sufficient. It was an engineer who suggested switching to hydrogen, at a time when legislation was being tightened up in the State.
An ambitious schedule in California
The California Air Resources Board has introduced strict criteria for new purchases: 25% zero-emission buses from 2023, 50% in 2026 and 100% in 2029. In addition, by 2040, 100% of all fleets will have to be carbon-neutral. “For reasons of autonomy, we decided to go for hydrogen-powered buses, whose performance is similar to that of gas-powered buses,” explains Roland Cordero.
Foothill Transit therefore placed an order for 33 buses with New Flyer (NFI Group). Its Xcelsior Charge FC model claims a range of 350 miles (around 560 km). The bus is more expensive (1.2 million dollars per unit) and its cost is higher (1 dollar per mile) due to the price of hydrogen. However, FootHill Transit believes that the technology will be more cost-effective in the long term. The agency has also invested in a hydrogen stockroom with a capacity of 25,000 gallons (around 95,000 litres) where it is stored in liquid form. It plans to expand its fleet with a further 19 models ordered from El Dorado, which produces the Axess FC. “This will enable us to compare the reliability of our buses with others,” says Roland Cordero.
Financial support to go zero-emission
Foothill Transit worked with a specialist body, the CTE (Center of Transportation and the Environment), one of whose representatives, Jaimie Levin, was also in Brussels. The agency has received support from the federal government, as well as from California through the HVIP (Hybrid and zero emission truck and bus Voucher Incentive Project). Roland Cordero believes that hydrogen is an appropriate solution for transit transport. In fact, Foothill Transit is a member of the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bus Council, which has been set up at national level and brings together a number of transport authorities. However, hydrogen will not be the be-all and end-all, and the fleet will include a mix of energies.
Roland Cordero cites AC Transit, an agency based in Oakland, as an example. The latter plans to use 30% hydrogen-powered buses and 70% electric buses.
Do you want to learn more about hydrogen buses and California? Then our latest 2 articles on these subjects should interest you. You can read our latest article about hydrogen buses here and about California there.
Article written by Laurent Meillaud and translated by Logan King