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The Fuel Cell Electric Bus: The Other Electric Bus—and Why You Need to Know About It

Sep. 6, 2018
Article by Nicolas Pocard

The California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) proposed Innovative Clean Transit regulations could be  coming fast. Is your transit agency ready? Did you know - according to the proposed regulations, 100% of new transit bus purchases will  be zero-emission by 2029.

As a public transit leader, you know that zero emission buses are critical to the future of transit. And you know about battery electric buses. But what do you know about the other electric bus: the fuel cell electric bus?

Fuel cell electric buses: the true 1-to-1 replacement for conventional buses

A fuel cell electric bus (FCEB) is a battery hybrid electric bus with a lightweight, on board, fuel cell power system. Through an electrochemical reaction of hydrogen and air, the fuel cells generate DC power for the bus electric drive and recharge the batteries. This provides continuous, reliable power for up to 18 hours, with no emissions except water vapor.

The result? Cleaner air for our communities and fewer health problems related to air pollution. The public breathes better while still getting where they need to go.

Click here to learn the proven range and durability of Ballard's fuel cell  stacks and the improvements ahead >>fuel-cell-electric-buses

Greater range, higher performance and route flexibility

Fuel cell buses are proven and the quantity of historical data demonstrates a durability and robustness that is essential for heavy duty motive applications.

Fuel cell systems have become streamlined, advanced, and ever more clever.  What does this mean for the transit agencies? Lower cost, superior usability, and easier maintenance.

FCEBs offer the range and flexibility to directly replace diesel/CNG buses:

  • Range of up to 300 miles or 450 km between refueling
  • Climbing and cold weather performance similar to diesel and CNG buses
  • Route flexibility: depot refueling means there is no need for en-route charging infrastructure
  • Fast refueling: 8-12 minutes of refueling delivers 18 hours of continuous service without the need for overnight charging
  • Fuel cell have proven their durability with stack life time of 30,000hrs proven in service

Fuel cell electric buses are field-proven

For California transit providers looking for a zero-emissions future, the “other” electric bus may be the best option. Fuel cell electric buses are field-proven, with a track record of millions of miles in revenue service for the past 15 years.

Fuel cell electric buses have also demonstrated consistent performances throughout long daily drive cycles during all seasons in challenging geographies.

Transit agencies like California’s Sunline Transit and AC Transit, along with Ohio’s SARTA have successfully deployed fuel cell buses in their fleets and intend on increasing the number of fuel cell powered buses as a result.

The evidence is clear: only FCEBs have the service range, the power, and the load-bearing and hill-climbing capabilities comparable to diesel/CNG buses, offering a true 1-to-1 replacement without compromise.

The way forward…

Like battery and power train technologies, fuel cell and hydrogen technologies are evolving at a rapid pace to improve the value proposition of hydrogen mobility for fleet operators.

With new hydrogen storage technologies in development, ranges of more than 500 miles (800 kilometres) will be possible while reducing further refueling infrastructure requirements.

The next generation of power modules in development at Ballard will further reduce the total life cycle cost of  the fuel cell system and increase vehicle efficiency.

To learn more about, the proven performance and future improvements of fuel cell electric buses download our comprehensive white paper below.


WP-FCEB Performance-thumbnail

Fuel Cell Electric Buses: Proven Performance and the Way Forward 

Download our white paper to learn the proven performance of the fuel cell electric bus, and how it will further disrupt the transit industry with improving technology. 

Download Now