CALSTART, the California operating division of WestStart, a North American advanced transportation technologies consortium, has secured and launched contracts for five major fuel cell bus technology development projects in California with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The projects represent an important component of CALSTART’s overall hydrogen pathways strategy.
The newest $24-million effort involves multiple fuel cell and drive system leaders, three transit districts and three major bus makers and is focused on speeding key improvements in fuel cell reliability, system design and component design. The FTA is providing $12-million in funding; the private companies involved are providing the balance.
CALSTART and its project teams are part of a comprehensive National Fuel Cell Bus Technology Program to help knock down the barriers to commercial use of clean fuel cell technology in transit over the next several years.—James Simpson, FTA Administrator
CALSTART’s strategy to rapidly advance fuel cell technology utilizes three parallel development paths:
A direct path that develops and accelerates testing on the best existing fuel cells;
An evolutionary path that combines smaller fuel cells with other supporting technologies; and
A component path that develops the core enabling sub-systems fuel cells will need to succeed.
The five projects include:
SunLine Transit Agency’s American Fuel Cell Bus. The focus of this direct path project, based at SunLine Transit Agency, is to develop a purpose-built, next-generation fuel cell bus. The bus features an upgraded 120 kW fuel cell system from UTC, an advanced lithium-ion energy storage system, an advanced electric motive drive system from ISE Corp. that is lighter weight and lower cost, and an advanced New Flyer bus design using composite materials and modern electronics for weight reduction. SunLine will operate the bus in the nine cities of the Coachella Valley in California.
AC Transit “HyRoad”. In another direct path project, AC Transit in the San Francisco Bay Area will accelerate testing and identification of the weakest areas of fuel cell and hybrid systems, root cause analysis, fuel cell technology development, and component upgrades with more reliable and durable systems. Data collected from benchmarking current systems will lead to fuel cell and component upgrades roughly one year into the project.
BAE Systems Compound Fuel Cell Hybrid Bus. The goal of this novel evolutionary path project is to trim capital cost and reduce operating costs by building on a highly efficient, commercial Orion hybrid bus design that balances a moderately-sized Hydrogenics fuel cell (15-25 kW) as an auxiliary power unit (APU), BAE Systems’ advanced HybriDrive Propulsion System, and advanced energy storage. Called “compound” because it links fuel cell, conventional engine and battery energy sources in one system, the bus targets doubling the fuel efficiency of a diesel bus in an affordable package. It will operate with San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) transit system for up to one year.
US Hybrid Integrated Auxiliary Module (IAM) and Fuel Cell Bi-Directional Converter (BDC). These two component projects from US Hybrid in Torrance, CA, will develop critical enabling systems for more reliable and lower-cost fuel cell bus operation.
The Integrated Auxiliary Module (IAM) project will develop and demonstrate a single, low-cost, compact unit housing the 200 amp, 24V DC-DC converter and dual 10 hp (7.5 kW) motor drives with CAN interface for auxiliary power needs aboard a fuel cell or hybrid fuel cell bus.
The Fuel Cell Bi-directional DC-DC Power Converter (BDC) project will optimize and streamline the complex energy flow between multiple devices, such as fuel cells, batteries and electric drive system. By standardizing the 400A rated bi-directional DC-DC converter module design, the unit can reduce weight and costs, and increase efficiency of the fuel cell systems.
These projects are integral parts of our multi-path roadmap to more quickly improve hydrogen and fuel cell technologies and move them to the market. They support our overall suite of fuel cell and hydrogen efforts, including separate projects with a high-lifetime fuel cell system. Given California’s first-mover need for cleaner, lower carbon transportation, the state is the ideal epicenter for these efforts.—John Boesel, President and CEO of WestStart-CALSTART