Four next-generation fuel cell-powered hybrid-electric transit buses were introduced in Hartford, Connecticut, joining an earlier generation bus that began service in 2007. The new buses will be operated by Connecticut Transit (CTTransit) and are equipped with UTC Power fuel cell systems. UTC Power is a United Technologies Corp. company.
The new buses are part of the Federal Transit Administration’s national Fuel Cell Bus Program. Only the Greater Oakland/San Francisco, Calif., area will have a larger fuel cell bus fleet in the United States, also equipped with UTC Power fuel cell systems.
The new model 40-foot Van Hool transit buses are lighter than the earlier generation fuel cell bus, which rolled out in 2007 and continues to operate on various routes in Greater Hartford, including the free downtown Star Shuttle route. Advanced lithium-ion battery systems and a more durable fuel cell powerplant are key features of the new buses. The buses also will be instrumental in capturing real-time information, which will be used in developing more commercially viable fuel cells in the future.
A 2008 NREL evaluation of the first generation of fuel cell buses in service in Hartford found that while the experience for operators and riders with the fuel cell bus had been positive, there had been a number of specific problems and limitations that resulted in bus availability consistently below the 85% target. These problems include initial quality assurance of the bus manufacturing/integration, the traction batteries, heating and air conditioning, operating in slippery conditions, maximum bus operating speed, and degradation of the fuel cell power system. (Earlier post.)
CTTransit is building a new garage to store up to six fuel cell buses, and the agency also plans to install a hydrogen fueling station on-site. Some of the buses will continue to refuel at a hydrogen station at UTC Power’s headquarters in South Windsor, Conn.
UTC Power has provided fuel cell powerplants for fleet transportation since 1998 and its made-in-Connecticut fuel cells have powered buses in the United States, Spain, Italy and Belgium. The company’s PureMotion Model 120 fuel cell system for transit buses represents more than nine years of research and development in partnership with the US Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command and the US Department of Transportation through the Northeast Advanced Vehicle Consortium.
CTTransit is the state-owned bus transit system serving the Greater Hartford, New Haven, Stamford, Waterbury, New Britain, Meriden, Bristol and Wallingford areas. Van Hool of Belgium is one of the world’s largest bus and coach manufacturers.