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House Approves $65M National Fuel Cell Bus Technology Program

The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved  HR 3, The Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy For Users—a six-year bill that provides $284 billion for the federal highway, transit and highway safety programs.

Tucked within the welter of spending programs and projects (3,315 highway projects, 414  bus projects) is a $65-million provision funding the research and development of technologies to make hydrogen fuel cell-powered buses commercially viable.

Section 3039 of the bill establishes a national fuel cell bus technology development program, which will allow the agency to enter into partnerships with no more than 3 geographically diverse organizations to conduct fuel cell bus technology and infrastructure projects.

The initiative is funded with $64,949,950 spread over six years, including a smaller amount allocated to 2004. The money will co-fund the research up to 50%—i.e., the partners must cost-share.

One partner will be the National Fuel Cell Bus Technology Initiative (NFCBTI). Led by WestStart-CALSTART, NFCBTI is a collaboration of technology companies and transportation system operators, which has proposed a six-year, $25-million per year effort to tackle fuel cell development and infrastructure.

The bill also provides at least $15 million to support the purchase of CNG and HCNG (hydrogen-CNG mix) buses by different operators. Funding for some hybrids and fuel cell vehicles is included as well. The actual outlays for CNG and other cleaner buses will be higher, but many of the projects listed (summary available at the bill’s site) only indicate “clean fuel”, not the exact technology.

I did not see any provisions for biodiesel purchase, although I might have missed them.

Now it goes to the Senate.

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