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CaFCP proposes two Centers of Excellence in California for fuel cell buses to accelerate commercialization; $100M program

The California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP) has published “A Road Map for Fuel Cell Electric Buses in California: A zero-emission solution for public transit”. The roadmap suggests the steps necessary to move from the pre-commercial phase of fuel cell electric bus (FCEB) deployment and manufacturing (2012-2015) to the early commercial phase (2016- 2017) to a commercial model in 2018 and beyond, including the requisite fueling infrastructure.

This road map suggests a specific strategy for the implementation of two Centers of Excellence in Northern and Southern California, each of which would cost approximately $50 million and would operate 40 FCEBs. The two centers would allow for economies of scale sufficient to achieve 2016 DOE/DOT targets and begin to overcome the primary barriers to market: the capital cost of the vehicles and the cost of fuel, CaFCP suggests.

Transportation-related air pollution will need to be reduced by 90-95% below 2010 levels by 2050 if these regions are to meet national health-based air quality standards as required by federal law, and greenhouse gas emissions from transportation will need to fall by 85%. Both are necessary to meet California’s 2050 climate goals. The magnitude of the changes needed in the coming decades will require the complete transformation of transportation to zero or near-zero technologies by 2050. If California is to meet its emissions reductions goals it needs to begin developing the commercial markets for zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), including buses, now.

...California has gained considerable experience with the development and demonstration of zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) technologies through its zero-emission bus (ZBus) program. Fuel cell buses have consistently demonstrated superb operating performance in their ability to maintain sustained power and acceleration in a wide spectrum of operating conditions, smooth and quiet operation, and unmatched fuel efficiency.

...These environmental benefits and policy goals can only be achieved, however, if buses are available at capital and operating costs that meet the budgets of transit as well as state and federal agencies. Achieving these targets is possible with the deployment of fuel cell electric buses (FCEBs) at production volumes rather than through small demonstration fleets, an approach supported by the funding model for zero and near-zero emission buses in the federal transportation bill “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” (MAP-21).

—“A Road Map for Fuel Cell Electric Buses in California”

Currently, 15 FCEBs operate in revenue service in California among several transit agencies, including AC Transit and other San Francisco Bay Area transit agencies; and SunLine Transit. Despite improving performance among FCEBs, capital and operating costs remain a barrier to commercialization, the roadmap notes.

The capital cost of a full-size FCEB is currently more than $2 million (assuming a fuel-cell dominant configuration that meets performance targets—significantly higher than 2012 DOE/DOT FTA performance, cost, and durability targets for fuel cell transit buses primarily due to customized designs and low bus-manufacturing volumes.

Based on industry input, the $1 million target can be achieved through a limited production of FCEBs of the same design, while the $600,000 target requires commercial volumes, according to the roadmap.

DOE/DOT FTA targets for FCEBs.
Source: “A Road Map for Fuel Cell Electric Buses in California”. Click to enlarge.

In addition to the capital cost of the FCEBs, hydrogen fuel cost is an issue as well. Having a high throughput of hydrogen is important to achieving a fuel cost per mile competitive with conventional buses, the roadmap notes.

Centers of Excellence. The roadmap proposes establishing two Centers of Excellence in California with 40 buses per fleet, suggesting that, according to industry input, production runs of 40 FCEBs will be large enough to reduce the capital cost per bus to or below $1.0 million and fleet size will be sufficient to enable a fuel cost per mile competitive with a conventional bus.

The key elements of these centers are:

  • A single fuel cell hybrid bus configuration at each site, manufactured under a serial production run of 40 units over one to two years.
  • Vehicles that comply with transit agency requirements and are operated in normal revenue service on scheduled runs.
  • A 12-year operating period.
  • A single hydrogen fueling station with throughput sufficient to achieve a fuel cost per mile comparable to conventional buses.
  • Vehicles introduced in the 2015-2016 timeframe.
  • Regional training and education for transit staff and community stakeholders.

Assuming a 12-year operating period; a cost of $1 million per bus; maintenance facility upgrades of up to $2 million; mid-life powerplant overhauls for all buses of $80,000/bus; and infrastructure capital costs of approximately $5 million per site, the cost for each Center of Excellence would be $50.2 million including rolling stock and infrastructure. In contrast, the cost of purchasing a fleet of forty conventional buses is $19.2 million (vehicle cost only). sources.

The roadmap makes a set of recommendations to both California and the Federal government in support of such a program. In addition, CaFCP members will work with local, state and federal stakeholders to develop a funding model that supports the road map and implementation of the Centers of Excellence.




I would like to see all delivery trucks be CNG hybrids and eventually fuel cell. The difference is buses are bought by cities and counties, delivery trucks are private sector.

Buses are public sector because no private sector company wants to provide the service. They would have to charge $10 for a 5 mile ride and still lose money. It is done for the public good, not quick massive profits.


An aluminum-Air battery could be used as a cleaner range extender instead of FCs.

Coupled with quasi standard lithium batteries or up-to-date ultra caps, it could supply a full 16 to 20 hours (1000+ miles) very clean e-range.

Down sized units could give similar performances for cars and light trucks by 2018/2020 or so.


Al-air and CNG suffer from the same problem:  a lack of public fueling infrastructure, which arises from a lack of users to finance it.  CNG should not be difficult to build out given the reach of the pipeline network, but even so there are stretches of Interstates where stations are further apart than the one-tank range of a Civic GX.  In the hinterlands, forget it.

Fixing this will not be easy, cheap or fast.


Yup all they have to do now for the most part is decide on a good single design for the next bus and belt out 40-50-100 of the buggers. Concidering the fleet sizes being talked about in some places that should be no issue at all... assuming enough cities can agree on a design.

This is why so many are going fuel cell for busses. Its a lot closer then many think and a lot more certain the before that they will not just hit the goal but go beyond it.


Mitsubishi reports two Lithium ion battery fires.

Fuel cells are looking better all the time.


Using fuels cells is inefficient energy usage , because of the extra step that uses precious electricity to manufacture hyrdogen (H2) from H2O.

The laws of physics dictate that H2 fuel cells must always be worse than using electricity more directly. Also, in turn, purely electric cars are worse (CO2/mile) than existing hybrids because of our fossile-impaired electrical supply.

For buses, the best solution in terms of energy/mile and CO2/mile is diesel-hybrid designs. The same is true for cars.

Fuel cell reference:

Kit P

“Fuel cell reference:”

That is an old reference. Have the laws of physicist changed. Nope.

Of course this is California, policy makers do not worry about the laws of physics just to pandering to those who do not worry about the laws of physics.

“The same is true for cars ”

That is also an unfounded theory. Something is true when after you do it the data shows that it is true. Often when project take public money, a report is required to document if it was a good idea after all. I have only read one report that say the results were better than expected.

The California fallacy is that they will create a 'green' industry that the rest of the country will accept. We will not accept it because,

“Using fuels cells is inefficient energy usage ”

Roger Pham

>>>“Using fuels cells is inefficient energy usage ”

Inefficient in comparison to what?
Fuel cells has thermal efficiency of ~60%, while turbo-diesel engine has peak efficiency of about ~42% to meet latest emission regulations, while in a diesel bus, the efficiency may drop to 35% at typical use. The efficiency of a FC bus is still 60% at typical usage, meaning FC is twice as efficient as diesel engine. Making H2 from renewable electricity using high-pressure electrolyzer is 80%-efficient process. What is the efficiency of making diesel fuel from renewable electricity?

Electric bus (BEV) is more efficient that FC bus? Not when you consider the energy cost of making the battery, and then how would you store excess renewable energy produced in spring and fall for use in winters, when the grid will go above 80% renewable energy? When the electricity grid will be powered by > 80% renewable energy + nuclear, you will have way too much energy produced in the spring and fall with respect to demand. How would you store this excess energy? With H2, of course. How would you charge your BEV in the winter? Mostly with electricity produced from the H2 generated from excess of renewable energy from the last season. What is the efficiency of this process? Get the picture?

When will the electric grid be powered by >80% renewable + nuclear electricity? Some decades from now. It will happen, mark my may smile, but it will happen!


What's the efficiency of the process that produces the FC's hydrogen?

how would you store excess renewable energy produced in spring and fall for use in winters, when the grid will go above 80% renewable energy?
If you can't afford to do this, it's pointless to ask how.  It's probably cheaper to "store" energy by building out extra nuclear capacity.


I don't think Kit was advocating BEVs LOL



I keep seeing comments about how much energy it takes to manufacture a Lithium battery. Do you have a source?

I've never been able to find one and compared with the energy it takes to do "normal car manufacturing" such as trying to sort bauxite to get your aluminum, I'm just not believing any wild numbers about least by comparison.


Again they are getting everything they need AND want out of fuel cell busses.. so its a done deal now.

It worked.


@ DavidD

Actually one can recover the energy used to manufacture lithium batteries by capturing the heat given off when they catch fire in one's EV. How does that work for you?


Wow, a really helpful and interesting contribution to the conversation Mannstein. Thanks.


Oh, by the your so worried about fires, you do know that over 250,000 cars a year catch on fire in the US alone.

I know that batteries are scary and everything, but so are lots of other things in life.


DaveD....your're not supposed to mention all those ICEVs going up in smoke and the $10T oil wars. You may be accused of being un-American?

Future Aluminum-Air batteries may very be a game changer specially when combined with improved ultra caps and/or high power handling batteries.

The range between re-charges may be 1000+ miles. Very few (large) stations may be required?

It may be a simple drop-in to replace the FC with an appropriate size Aluminum-Air battery.

Kit P

"It worked."

All I got from this article is that FCV are very expensive and do not work very well.

While R&D on buses is a logical staring point, give me $100 M and I will be happy to issue a press release not and then.

Please, I an will to do R&D on FV sail boats in a south seas while singing show tunes from south pacific.

"I know that batteries are scary and everything, but so are lots of other things in life."

Storing electricity demands a healthy respect.


Kit P sometimes you make me wonder...

The cost of nthe fuel cell stack is one of the keys they were bloody well talking about damnit. By going to 40 bus fleets they get the stack ALOT cheaper. Then by going commercial volumes they get the stack even cheaper down the road.

So it bloody well worked. Simple bloody simple fleet size completes that goal.

Also in case you didn't notice the new busses they are coming out with very soon already as they say have an estimated 8 year 300k mile lifespan... very close to the 12/500k goal that is still 3.5 years away. AND AGAIN will be gotten mostly by simple fleet size.

In short they have what they need and now its time to go big.


They have had a fuel cell bus running in Palm Springs, California for more than 5 years. It is good prove out data. You don't make improvements without this and they have made improvements.


I have to wonder about the viability of the zinc-air bus that Electric Fuel tested.  With diesel over $4/gallon, does that make sense now?  It doesn't have any greater efficiency than electrolytic hydrogen, but the storage problem is roughly nil.


Up-to-date ultra caps (or future high power ultra quick charge batteries) combined with Aluminum-Air or Zinc-Air or FCs or ICE as range extender, gives the industry more options?

Wonder what Japan, China and EU will do?

Roger Pham

>>>>"If you can't afford to do this,[Hydrogen storage] it's pointless to ask how. It's probably cheaper to "store" energy by building out extra nuclear capacity."

Even if 100% of energy is nuclear, there still a need for H2. H2 is needed for making fertilizer, hydrogenation of biomass, and for vehicular fuel, organic chemistry feedstock, etc. H2 is cheap and easy to make. We sure will be able to afford making a lot of H2.

The energy demand of summer and winter is 2-3x that of spring and fall. So, even if nuclear provides 100% of energy, there still will be a need to store excess nuclear energy in the spring and fall for use in summer and winter.

H2 is needed for making fertilizer, hydrogenation of biomass, and for vehicular fuel, organic chemistry feedstock, etc.
Let's go over this in order.
  1. NH3 can be made by direct electrolytic synthesis; see Stranded Wind.  This avoids the energy loss of the Haber process.
  2. Biomass does not need to be hydrogenated unless carbon economy is paramount.  Sequestering carbon is the important thing once fossil fuels have been replaced, and hydrogenation just makes it more valuable as fuel than anything else.
  3. Vehicle fuel can be made from the fraction that can be dehydrated stoichiometrically.  Most liquid vehicle fuel should be replaced by electricity anyway.
  4. Chemistry feedstocks are varied, but so far the work seems to be going into routes like dimethylfuran; hydrogenation is used on triglycerides, not lignocellulose.
All in all, I see the "needs" for H2 as such are mostly for products that ought to be eliminated instead of substituted.
The energy demand of summer and winter is 2-3x that of spring and fall.
Take a big pile of dirt, minimum ten thousand cubic yards or so.  Cover with some insulation under a waterproof membrane.  Heat it up inside during spring and fall.  Use for space heat in the winter and to run absorption A/C in the summer.  I'm sure you will find this is cheaper than hydrogen, and likely has better round-trip efficiency.

There are plenty of other things you could do, like my idea of having big dump loads such as kilns to roast scrap concrete to dehydrate the Portland cement and return it to dry cement, sand and gravel for re-use.  Use it to make electrolytic products like aluminum, magnesium and titanium in plants running seasonally.  Or just crank the units back to 50% power so they don't have to refuel quite as frequently.  This is not rocket science.

Roger Pham

H2 is very cheap to make. Electrolyzer will cost no more than $50/kW and will last >20,000 hrs, and this computes to 0.25 cent/kWh. Carbon fiber tank costs around $10/kWh of capacity that can last >10,000 cycles, meaning < 0.1 cent/kWh. The two above combined means that to make H2, you add the cost of electricity x the efficiency of the electrolyzer (.8) + 0.35 cent. let's say wind electricity at 4 cents/kWh divided by 0.8 = 5 cents and then plus 0.35 cent for electrolyzis and storage cost = 5.35 cents. A gallon of gasoline equivalent in H2 will cost about $2.15, much cheaper than gasoline cost now.

Now, if you throttle back your nuclear plant to 50%, then you nearly double the cost of electricity. For example, if nuclear electricity is at 5 cents/kWh and you throttle back to 50% of capacity, then your electricity will now cost 10 cents/kWh.

Which option is cheaper?
With regard to local to thermal storage of seasonal scale, you must do the math to see how much that would cost in comparison to H2 energy storage. Physical forms of energy storage can never beat chemical means of energy storage in term of volumetric nor gravimetric efficiency!

H2 is very cheap to make. Electrolyzer will cost no more than $50/kW and will last >20,000 hrs, and this computes to 0.25 cent/kWh.
What I'm finding isn't quite so optimistic:  £75/kW, or around $110.  Your cost per average watt depends on the duty cycle and TBOH, which is not stated.

If you're using electrolysis as a dump load, the duty cycle will be much lower than the capacity factor of the generation feeding it.  This is much less of a problem for nuclear than wind or PV, but still.

Carbon fiber tank costs around $10/kWh of capacity that can last >10,000 cycles, meaning < 0.1 cent/kWh.
But you're talking seasonal storage, where that capacity would get cycled twice a year.  5000 years is a long wait for amortization.  Even cycling once a week in a vehicle, that's nearly 200 years.  Try 20 year amortization at 5% at the outside and cost based on that.

A heap of dry dirt heated to 200 C costs... as much as a heap of dry dirt, plus the heaters and pipes to remove the heat.  Generally these things get cheaper as they get bigger, because the insulation and such has to cover the surface and not occupy the volume.  A cubic meter of dirt with a heat capacity of 0.4 and density 2.5 stores 1000 kJ/°C or 27.7 kWh for 100°C ΔT.  I'd be surprised if a big heap of dirt costs even $1/m³.  If the dirt-pile addresses your seasonal heating and A/C demand, power production can just run at 100% year-round using the storage as a dump load.

If you're going to store things seasonally, solids and liquids are your best bet.  Stranded Wind wants to make anhydrous NH3.  Pryolyzing biomass can be tuned to make mostly liquids and solids, and the gases can be scrubbed and steam-reformed to make whatever hydrogen you really need.  That looks like the path of least cost to me.

Now, if you throttle back your nuclear plant to 50%, then you nearly double the cost of electricity.
A few months out of the year.  This averages out, and saves costs elsewhere.  Extending refueling outages to manage production could cut costs by allowing crews to work more jobs per year, saving money on overtime.
Physical forms of energy storage can never beat chemical means of energy storage in term of volumetric nor gravimetric efficiency!
True, but can you beat the cost of dirt?

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