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FTA to Fund $12 Million in Fuel-Cell Bus Projects

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced today that it will provide $12 million in funding for several major advanced fuel-cell bus projects to CALSTART, the California operating division of WestStart-CALSTART. The projects will advance fuel-cell activities across California—in Oakland, San Francisco, the Coachella Valley and Southern California.

The CALSTART projects will include new projects as well as enhancements of existing fuel cell bus demonstration programs at AC Transit in Oakland and at SunLine Transit in the Coachella Valley. UTC Power will provide the fuel cell for the SunLine and AC Transit buses. New Flyer Industries will develop a purpose-built bus specifically designed for fuel-cell applications for the SunLine project.

CALSTART led a coalition of industry, government, and non-profit organizations to secure $49 million in the federal transportation reauthorization legislation. The program provided targeted funding for the fuel-cell bus industry because it’s seen as a likely early adopter of the technology. Hydrogen is more viable in a mass transit application because it doesn’t require a widespread re-fueling infrastructure and the large fuel-storage cylinders can be placed on the roof of the buses.

In addition to the funding provided for the AC Transit and SunLine projects, the FTA is providing $5.35 million for the development of a battery-dominant fuel-cell hybrid bus with the San Francisco Municipal Railways (Muni). BAE Systems will provide the hybrid propulsion system and do the systems integration on the bus.

Additional funding totaling nearly $300,000 was provided to develop a hybrid fuel-cell power converter and an integrated auxiliary module for fuel-cell buses. These components play small but important roles in improving the efficiency and lowering the cost of fuel cell buses. US Hybrid will be the lead contractor on those two projects.

The full $12 million will be provided to CALSTART which will be responsible for managing the over-all multi-year program. CALSTART will then provide the funding to the companies mentioned above.



Why bother.

Are trolleybusses really that hard to make??

For $21 mil I'm sure you could part fund a trolleybus network somewhere which would last for 30+ years.



Good point Andy. Can anyone think of a way to make overhead trolley wires less obtrusive?

Rafael Seidl

Neil -

SF trolley buses actually use loops of steel cables buried in the road. These are kept in motion by stationary electric motors at one end of the line. The trolley car features a grip tool that lets it latch onto the moving cable - there is no engine or motor in the trolley.

No-one in their right mind would build such a system today but SF already has it. It could switch to a more modern solution based on inductive couplers installed in the cavities currently used for the cables. Upgrade the rolling stock with electric motors and kiss the wear and tear of the mechanical system goodbye.

Everywhere else, I'd suggest pairing a small CNG-based genset with a beefy bank of ultracaps for efficient recuperation and acceleration. Hydrogen? Fuggedaboutit!


They have fuel cell busses out in Palm Springs. They have been running for years now. Good thing about a bus is you do not need tracks, cables, nor wires and they can go where ever there is a road.


Anyone who'd suggest putting inductive gear down a slot in a street hasn't thought about the amount of ferrous trash in the world.

(Yes, I do get paid to anticipate problems before they hit, and design systems to be immune to them.)


I actually meant the overhead HT wire version as per used in a great many European cities and in many of the Former Soviet Union countries.

Silent, clean and cost effective.

Why not? The busses can even have small donkey biodiesel engines for shunting and off circuit detours at low speeds.



The real bottleneck is Administrations, Congress and Big Oil want liquified carbon derived product to sell downstream. Los Angeles had the great Red Line Trolley System until oil and automakers decided LA need more cars.

The politics will dictate H2 in the new fuel mix - why fight it? It's not so bad, creates infrastructure jobs and sure enough is clean. Minimize the attempt to hold back electrics and biofueled hybrids by promoting all alternatives.

If it remains a capitalist country (sometimes doubtful) the "market" will shake out the winners.


We should fight it because

  1. It won't work, and
  2. The effluents and delays in real solutions will cause grievous damage to both the USA and the environment.
I don't know how to put it better.

Cheryl Ho

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