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Five New Major CALSTART Fuel Cell Bus Projects in California Now Underway

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


richard schumacher

Oh, good, another black hole for development money. Public and private fleet operators don't like to use even CNG fuelled vehicles. Hydrogen, inherently more expensive and harder to handle and without significant environmental benefit, is a dead end.


I would like to see CNG diesel hybrid buses. At least they would work, bring cleaner air and better economy. We have some CNG diesels around and they even seem quieter than the regular diesel buses. I can not explain that, but I certainly know they are cleaner. When they take off from the curb, there is not a huge cloud of black smoke coming out of the exhaust.


I would figure city buses with there constant stopping would be perfect for batteries: have an auto-charger at stop points and rapid charger them, they could run 24/7 without a fuel stop (although the driver needs to be changed), with one of those altair or nanosafe batteries they could operate for millions of partial discharge/recharge cycles and require less maintenance then a diesel or fuel cell powered cars.

Healthy Breeze


Batteries + supercapacitors. The guys making the hyrdraulic hybrids can only store 30-120 seconds of impulse power in the pressure tanks, and they still get much of the benefit for buses and delivery vehicles.

Supercapacitors that can store a couple thousand horse power seconds of energy would extend battery life greatly, and provide better regenerative braking and acceleration.

Sure, some day Fuel Cells should be 2 orders of magnitude cheaper...but can't we have the smartest solution available with today's off the shelf tech today?


but nanosafe cells can withstand that much re/charging.

Healthy Breeze

I thought the nanosafe cells didn't have the energy density, though.


How far does a city bus go between each stop? Can't be more then 5 miles. If nanosafe can do a full recharge in 10 minutes and assuming 60 seconds at each stop then the battery capacity would need to be 10 times the average stop distance, so max 50 miles range. Also many cities already have electric trolleybuses and the support wires, a battery trolleybus could supplant the hybrid trolleybus.


We can’t seem to fund anything practical, because we might be forced to make it work and pay for itself instead of "burn money". Face the facts; hydrogen is "Dead On Arrival" when it comes to being a practical or efficient energy carrier for vehicles! Too bad we don’t have enough special interest groups interested in advanced batteries or super capicators instead.


potential for 'zero' emissions with range extender.
As the cell is 'idling' at at an output sufficient to charge the batteries, and driving enough to discharge, An buses I ride on seem heavy on the throttle, so electric is good and heavy on the brakes good for recharge.
a small ice would also work well with relatively good emissions especially NG which could store easily at low pressures in such a voluminous vehicle.


Dave I'm sure that batteries will be a essential in the described vehicle and super or Ultracaps also will integrate to imense benifit.
Dont assume hey arent involved just because they arent mentioned.
Probably dont sound sexy enough.


It seems like the Feds and Calstart want to fund things that can not already be done by industry. However, if the state and Federal governments would fund a fleet of clean efficient buses that could be put into service soon, we might save fuel and have better health in the cities now.


The reason they love h2 is of course they often eother get subsidiesed power ... thus h2 is far far far FAAAAAR cheaper then diesel for them. They also are very quiet and clean.

And as the fuel cell is not so spendy anymore the fuel cell bus isnt either.

They ALL want to replace diesel with electric and h2 before disel prices flash over.

Roger Bedell

I've put together a web site devoted to opportunity charging of hybrid-electric buses. To me, this is way more efficient, easier, cheaper etc than H2 buses. Tell me what you think. www.nanobus.org

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