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Fuel Cell Buses in U.S. Transit Fleets

Posted by Content Coordinator on Thursday, February 19th, 2015


This report, published annually, summarizes the progress of fuel cell electric bus (FCEB) development in the United States and discusses the achievements and challenges of introducing fuel cell propulsion in transit. Various stakeholders, including developers, transit agencies, and system integrators, have expressed the value of this annual status report, which provides a summary of results from evaluations performed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Funding for this effort is provided by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Fuel Cell Technologies Office within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Federal Transit Administration (FTA). This 2014 status report also includes results from an evaluation funded by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

NREL publishes individual reports on each demonstration that focus on the results and experiences for that specific project. The annual status report combines results from all of those FCEB demonstrations, tracks the progress of the FCEB industry toward meeting technical targets (as shown in Table ES-1), documents the lessons learned, and discusses the path forward for commercial viability of fuel cell technology for transit buses. Its intent is to inform FTA and DOE decision makers who direct research and funding; state and local government agencies that fund new propulsion technology transit buses; and interested transit agencies and industry manufacturers.

The 2014 summary results primarily focus on the most recent year for each demonstration, generally from August 2013 through July 2014. The results for these buses account for more than 938,444 miles traveled and 85,061 hours of fuel cell power system operation. The summary results are from four demonstrations at three transit agencies:

  • Zero Emission Bay Area (ZEBA) Demonstration Group led by Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) in California
  • BC Transit Fuel Cell Bus Project (final year of in-service operation) in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
  • Advanced Technology FCEB and American Fuel Cell Bus Project at SunLine Transit Agency in California.

NREL also collected and analyzed conventional baseline bus data from each site for comparison with the FCEB data. At AC Transit and BC Transit, the baseline buses are diesel buses. The baseline buses at SunLine are CNG because the agency does not operate diesel buses. The baseline buses are selected to be as close a match to the FCEBs as possible and operated in similar service.

DOE and FTA have established performance, cost, and durability targets for FCEBs. These targets, established with industry input, include interim targets for 2016 and ultimate targets for commercialization. FCEB technology continues to show progress toward meeting technical targets for increasing reliability and durability as well as reducing costs. Table ES-1 summarizes the performance of the FCEBs in the report compared to these targets.

Table ES-1. Summary of FCEB Performance Compared to DOE/FTA Targets

Download full version (PDF): Fuel Cell Buses in U.S. Transit Fleets

About the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

At NREL, we focus on creative answers to today’s energy challenges. From breakthroughs in fundamental science to new clean technologies to integrated energy systems that power our lives, NREL researchers are transforming the way the nation and the world use energy.

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