SARTA takes hydrogen fuel cell bus on tour

April 12, 2019
Officials in the nation's capital will be able to experience the HFC bus up close and gain a deeper understanding of the low and no emission options available to public transit.

For all the bluster about flying cars being just around the corner, a major breakthrough in how we get around - responsibly - is upon us. With transportation now the largest source of CO2 emissions in the U.S., many communities are looking for greener alternatives. The Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA), which runs 34 fixed routes across Northeast Ohio, is leading this push with one of the nation’s largest fleets of hydrogen buses; it has seven currently on the road with five more on the way. SARTA is taking one of those buses on the road for a tour of our nation’s capital this month, showing off a hydrogen fuel cell bus that emits only water and heat - that’s it.

“It may sound like a fantasy to some but we’re doing it every day: running transit buses that emit only heat and water. In fact, the water that’s discharged from the bus is so clean you can drink it,” said SARTA CEO Kirt Conrad. “And since only gas is flowing through the bus, the rides are more quiet and smoother than on a diesel-powered bus; we invite everyone to come take a ride and feel it themselves.”

The hydrogen fuel cell bus, manufactured by ElDorado-California (ENC) in conjunction with its partners, Ballard and BAE, is powered by hydrogen fuel that enters a fuel cell and combines with oxygen to generate electricity while leaving heat and clean water as the only residue. Unlike battery-electric buses, hydrogen fuel cell engines don’t need to be charged for hours. In fact, in only takes about 15 minutes to refill a hydrogen fuel tank, similar to what you would see with a diesel-powered bus. Over the span of a 12-year lifetime, a diesel-powered bus will consume approximately 125,000 gallons of diesel fuel. Swapping out that bus for one powered by a hydrogen fuel cell bus means about 1,400 fewer tons of CO2 polluting the atmosphere.

When it comes to safety, some of the world’s leading automobile manufacturers have embraced hydrogen fuel cell technology. Those automakers are now working to put even more hydrogen-powered cars on the road.

“We pride ourselves on manufacturing buses that not only represent the new wave of energy efficiency, but are as safe as any other bus on the road today,” said ENC Vice President/General Manager Tony Wayne. “Combine that with the availability of the Federal Transit Administration’s “Low-No” Grant Program, along with other federal and state grants, you have an opportunity for municipal and regional transit authorities to provide smooth, safe rides in a cost-effective way - all while producing zero emissions.”    

The SARTA bus will be at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority April 10, the U.S. Department of Transportation April 11 and will run demonstration routes for Alexandria Transit Company (DASH) on Sunday, April 14 and Monday, April 15.