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Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bus Demonstration Project Launched in Alabama

A research team led by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and coordinated by the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) has begun a project to design, manufacture, demonstrate, and evaluate a hydrogen fuel cell transit bus that will be operated by the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA) in revenue service on the UAB campus and in metropolitan Birmingham beginning in 2009.

The 30-foot vehicle will utilize a hybrid powertrain that includes two proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells fueled by hydrogen, a hybrid-electric direct drive propulsion system, and NiMH batteries for energy storage. The project is being supported in part by the Federal Transit Administration with funds appropriated by Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and will conclude in early 2011.

In addition to UAB, BJCTA, and CTE, supporting organizations include EVAmerica (bus design and manufacture), Embedded Power Controls, Inc. (vehicle integration), Hydrogenics Corporation (fuel cells), Fab Industries (hydrogen storage tanks), and Auburn University (vehicle testing).

Initial performance and operational data will be collected while operating the vehicle on the National Center for Asphalt Technology’s (NCAT) 1.7-mile oval test track located at Auburn University in Opelika, Alabama. Following this controlled testing, the team will develop and evaluate operations, performance, and maintenance requirements in the public demonstration environment. BJCTA will coordinate closely with UAB to test and evaluate the fuel cell bus on a variety of routes.

Aside from the fuel cell project, EV America is developing four models of electric and hybrid-electric buses:

  • EV70. The EV70 will be an electric 22-foot bus with a 70 kWh battery. This bus, in a typical shuttle operation, should be able to operate between 70-90 miles per charge.

  • EV70i. The EV70i will be an electric 22-foot bus with a 70 kWh battery pack that is integrated with the Wampfler inductive power transfer system. The IPT system permits the electric bus to receive a charge while it is picking up/discharging passengers or during a layover of the operator.

  • EV20h. The EV20h will be a series hybrid-electric 22-foot bus with a small 20 kWh battery pack that will be engine dominant.

  • EV70h. The EV70h will be a hybrid-electric 22-foot bus with a 70 kWh battery that will be capable of operating for longer periods of time on electricity only.


Henry Gibson

There is no need for inductive power transfer. Direct connections and activation and ground fault protection are sufficient. A streetcar line operates in France with electric rail segments that are activated only when the train is present. This can be vert cheap to do for bus stops compared to fuel cells. Fuel cells are a waste of money at this stage of the energy game. ZEBRA batterys have been shown able to run buses in full electric mode very well. Never! should an electric bus not have a small gasoline powered generator that can keep it running at low speeds to get it to a charging point. The same with electric cars. ..HG..



Agree with you that e-city buses could get all the recharge they need, at their regular stops. Yes, a very small on-board, 30 to 40 KW APU genset, should supply the rare emergency recharge required. Why this is not in operation in many places yet? Many existing ICE city buses could be converted quickly enough.

Basically, PHEVs are a lot more reassuring than BEVs.

However, BYD (China) says that their new BEVs (2009) will go up to 400 Km between charges and that the battery pack will last 10 years or 600 000 Km. This is getting very close to the real thing. Simpler, quick charge BEVs with 400+ Km between charges may have the upper hand on PHEVs in the near future. It would be ideal for city taxis. Appropriate charge stations would be rather easy to install most every where + in your own garage.


Conversion of the 820,000 US bus fleet to hybrids, especially CNG hybrid is a quick way to reduce mass transit oil consumption by at least 30%. The U.S. Dept. Transportation RITA Hydrogen Portal project puts the individual cost of a FC bus at $3.6M (3X other estimates).

CNG buses equipped with 75kWh Altair battery packs should be able to run all-electric mode for 50%+ of their work load. The key is to build a Route Charging Infrastructure. If the batteries are quick charged at the end of each route (as opposed to end of day) - a much higher AER can be achieved.

A typical CNG city bus would cost about $400k; the volume-priced Altair batteries and electric powertrain add another $250k. For a typical 8 hour day - the electric energy costs would be around $50.00.

The big plus of this exercise is for municipalities to establish a Route Charging Infrastructure. Simply an overhead rail type charger able to deliver 50% SOC in 10 minutes. The Altair batteries can handle this right now.

While conversion of passenger vehicles to CNG is impractical and NOT sustainable, mass transit is a much better approach. After heavy EV batteries mature, the infrastructure to charge all-electric buses will be in place.


Fuel cell busses are mainly about replacing diesel busses with a zero emmsssions er messin er thingy bus that still has ALL the stats of a fossil fueled bus.

And they want to do this before fossil fuels get too spendy for mass transit to use.

Now the great news is h2 itself isnt all that spendy AND they are making massive progress on the stack itselrf and on the tanks. The result should be a competent h2 fuel cell bus system well before 2015. One that hopefully can replace the fossil fuel fleet as fossil fuels become spendy...

As for where to get the power for that h2... most of it will be nat gas steam reformers and the rest likely wind and solar and hydro/geo.

Remember a fuel cell is far more potent weight to energy wise then a battery pack. A poddle sized tank of h2 can provide more power then a battery the size and weight of rossanne bar.

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