There are currently three London buses running on hydrogen fuel cells served by H2 refueling station. Transport for London is in the process of acquiring another 10 vehicles with 60 more to follow by 2010 that will provide some transportation support to the 2012 Olympic Games. This will still only represent 1 percent of the current fleet serving 7 million Londoners daily.
Worldwide Fuel Cell Use
So, is there a future for fuel cells in mass transport outside Europe? The Perth experience should not be seen as the death-knell for fuel-cell buses.
Canada may be a Kyoto signatory, but it has performed worse than any other G8 nation, including the United States, in terms of meeting its emissions obligations. As part of its hydrogen infrastructure plans for the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Olympic Games, BC Transit announced recently that it has signed a contract to take receipt of no less than 20 newly built fuel-cell buses for use in the Greater Vancouver area.
This will be the largest fleet of hybrid fuel-cell buses in operation, and second only to Germany in terms of a national total. Hamburg and Berlin together will have 23 buses running.
The first pre-production bus will arrive in Victoria in 2009 and is expected to be seen transferring spectators around the Olympic venues during the games. The fuel cells will be provided by Ballard, the drive train from San Diego-based ISE Corp., and the buses themselves assembled by New Flyer. The initial specifications for this fleet are in line with previous designs, 130 kW fuel cells, 350 bar hydrogen storage, ISE’s ThunderVolt electric drive system and nickel-metal hydride battery storage systems.
The total outlay on the British Columbia project is forecast to be 89 million CAN$, 10 million from the Province, 34 million from BC Transit and the remaining 45 million from the federal Public Transit Capital Fund. The 46 million CAN$ that is to be apportioned to the manufacture of the buses will be approximately equal to the amount ring-fenced for infrastructure projects. This creates a target figure of close to 2.32 million CAN$ for each vehicle—close to a 30 percent reduction on current fuel-cell bus manufacturing costs; a step in the right direction on the all-important cost factor. A figure of 60 percent was cited by the organizers of the CUTE evaluation conference as the target reduction on FCB cost.
Despite the disappointments of the Perth trials (as of November 2007, Porto in Portugal has also put its three buses into storage), the CUTE program has generally been viewed as a worthwhile venture. Proof of this is evident in the continuation of the trials under the description HyFleet. The cities of Stockholm and Stuttgart did not extend their projects but their buses are being redeployed to Hamburg to augment their existing fleet to a total of nine. Hamburg currently boasts the largest fleet in Europe, at least until the 14 fuel-cell buses planned for Berlin become operational under HyFleet. These vehicles will be hybrid hydrogen-ICE designs; four will be naturally aspirated and 10 will be powered by a new turbocharger-based engine design, designed by Neoman of Germany. HyFleet will be a consortium comprising eight transport companies, two bus manufacturers and one car manufacturer, 10 oil and utility companies, nine university consultants and two governmental organizations. In total, 13 nations are represented within HyFleet, more than that for the original CUTE program.
The H2-ICE hybrid design is likely to be the fuel-cell bus design of the future. Trials by Ford, under the Freedom Car initiative, on the specific technical gains that are achievable using fuel cells in hybrid designs have confirmed that fuel economy increases with fuel cell peak power whereas the efficiency of the regenerative energy capability decreases markedly at lower battery power. They claim that adding a 10 kW fuel cell system increases the range of the vehicle, relative to a vehicle without fuel cell power, by more than 20 percent. The figure rises to 30 percent for a 20 kW fuel cell addition.
Similar fuel economy gains have been recorded for 20 kW fuel cells when deployed in an H2-ICE design relative to an equivalent specification hybrid electric vehicle. Ford’s new H2-ICE shuttle bus, the E-450 is scheduled for delivery in 2007, first in Florida and then elsewhere across the United States.