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Brazil Launches Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Bus Project

Brazil’s first hydrogen fuel-cell bus.

Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy and EMTU/SP (São Paulo Metropolitan Urban Transport Company) have officially launched the country’s first hydrogen fuel-cell bus project, in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (PNUD), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Projects Funding Body (FINEP).

The $16-million project initially consists of the purchase, operation and maintenance of up to five vehicles and a station for hydrogen production and fuel supply for the buses, which will be used on the São Mateus/Jabaquara line in São Paulo, for four years. The buses will start running in an experimental phase next year.

The project—“Environmental Energy Strategy: Buses with Hydrogen Fuel Cell”— has four main objectives:

  • To develop a zero emission public transportation solution, which contributes to the reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx), particulate, carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbons (HC);

  • To build an understanding of fuel cell and hydrogen technology, enabling Brazil to obtain a leading position, due to its potential market;

  • To work to develop expertise and knowledge in Brazil, with bus operators, manufacturers, universities, and schools, with the objective of creating a market for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies;

  • To develop Brazilian specifications for the safe and efficient production, handling, stationary and automotive applications, enabling the development of a safe and efficient use of hydrogen.

The first fuel-cell bus will begin operation in São Paulo in November 2007. The consortium supporting the $16-million project includes:

  • AES Eletropaulo: power substation specifications, connection to grid; energy quality and availability.
  • Ballard Power Systems: designer, developer and manufacturer of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell stacks.
  • EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute): project manager and leader of the consortium.
  • Hydrogenics: manufacturer of the electrolyzer and hydrogen fueling station equipment.
  • Marcopolo: manufacturer of the bus body and its components.
  • Nucellsys: development, manufacturing and application engineering of the fuel-cell systems.
  • Petrobras: prime integrator of the hydrogen fueling station.
  • Tuttotrasporti: complete vehicle integrator and manufacturer of the chassis.

In 2005, DaimlerChrysler and Ford took over the Ballard Power Systems AG fuel-cell system business from the Canadian Ballard Power Systems Inc. and each own 50% of the company. NuCellSys, together with DaimlerChrysler and Ford, continues to develop and manufacture fuel-cell systems for automotive applications that control and supply the fuel-cell stack with conditioned gases under dynamic load changes and automotive specific requirements. Ballard focuses on the development of fuel-cell stacks.

The Metropolitan Area of São Paulo concentrates the world’s largest bus fleet, with great impact on the environment, and this was crucial for the choice of Brazil by PNUD/GEF as the centre for development of clean passenger transportation technologies.

Imagine a city without car and bus noise, with fresh air and an improvement of living conditions for all the population. These are the direct benefits that hydrogen powered vehicles can offer the society, because they use extremely clean fuel, which may be obtained from many renewable sources, such as solar energy, wind energy, hydroelectric energy and biomass (ethanol).

—Márcio Schettino, Development Manager at EMTU

The São Paulo bus fleet is estimated at 30,000 vehicles.

The 12m, 3-door fuel-cell bus will be powered by a 210 kW fuel-cell hybrid drive system (fuel cell + battery), have a capacity of 90 passengers and a range of 300 kilometers (186 miles). Estimated consumption is 14 kg of hydrogen/100 km.

Hydrogenics will supply a HySTAT-60 hydrogen electrolyzer to the project, as well as compression, storage and dispenser modules. The electrolyzer will produce 120 kg of hydrogen per day, with power consumption of 65 kWh/kg. The fueling station is planned to begin operation in the latter half of 2007. Brazil has a great capacity for generating electric energy by means of hydroelectric plants, which account for 92% of all Brazilian electricity.



Thomas Pedersen

It seems to me that fuel cells need even more development than batteries to become viable for road transport. On top of that comes the whole (currently non-existing) hydrogen infrastructure, not to mention the horribly low efficiency of electricity -> hydrogen -> electricity conversion of 15-35%.

Hydrogen fuel cells will only become feasible, if batteries (all kinds) or ultracaps run into insurmountable difficulties, such as lack of raw material (like platinum in fuel cells).


Fuel cell are important because when they are low on fuel, you fill them back up quickly. Batteries take huge currents, time to recharge and the deeper you discharge the shorter the lifespan.


SJC: for a bus that's running all day your comment rings true. Perhaps a hybrid system with a fuel cell to trickle charge the batteries enough to get through the day with a full recharge at night. You could also do a faster recharge at the end of each line. Add in some ulta-caps for breaking energy storage.

For 90% of light vehicles a decent sized battery would get you through the day, 99% of the time, with a slow charge at night. For the odd long trip, rent a petroleum/fuel cell/whatever car or pull a range extention trailer.


Well the fact is doe hit the nail on the head when they deicded to go as many routes as they could fund. H2 gets alot of money simply because it gets instant and drastic effects outside cars because amazingly enough we already use huge aounts of h2 and thus making it cheaper to make saves a buttload of cash and energy right now.

In fact its very possible we have saved far more money with the h2 research then we spent on it.

Also as few ever notice there are ready made markets for h2 BEFORE it even gets to the point we can afford it in cars. The military wants fuel cells for laser tanks and portable laser rifles and combat exoskeletons. Oil wants ot to refine heavy crude and make clean fuels LONG before they realy care if they can sell it by itself. And a gobsmacking nomber of industries use h2 to make things.

Also the solar and wind industries would REALY love to use the excess energy that many times pops up and would love to buldmore capacity and store away the eccess that would have to come about. Cyrrently windfarms and solar setups wste alot of energy they collect simply because they cant sell it when its collected.

And finaly yes the tech heads and geeks realy do want a battery/fuel cell combo car.. most fuel cell cars ar expected to be such a combo. And those geeks have one hell of alot of money.

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