A road map for zero emission, fuel cell electric buses in California

A road map for zero emission, fuel cell electric buses in California

Over the next decade, fuel cell electric buses will be deployed as the zero emissions solution for the toughest transit applications in every bus type and for every climate and terrain any day of the year.

The smallest paratransit shuttles will extend into long-range rural routes, and the largest over-the-road buses will connect communities across mountain passes and through deserts using fuel cell electric buses (FCEBs) fuelled by carbon-free and renewable hydrogen.

That’s the 2029 vision of the California Fuel Cell Partnership’s (CaFCP’s) second bus road map released yesterday.

CaFCP members envision a minimum growth path from 100 FCEBs ordered in 2020 to more than 25% of total zero emission buses ordered by 2029, including the supporting fuelling infrastructure.

Fuel Cell Electric Buses Enable 100% Zero Emission Bus Procurement by 2029 calls for 11 essential actions and sets new industry targets needed to widely adopt FCEBs in the Golden State.

The road map’s release comes on the heels of two different, but inter-related dynamics: the continuing maturity of FCEB technology and fleets across the globe, and the increasing demand for zero-emission transit in California and across the US.

“California has 20 years of experience with fuel cell technology in transit, reflecting the leadership of many, especially three transit agencies: SunLine Transit, AC Transit and the Orange County Transportation Authority,” said Bill Elrick, Executive Director of the CaFCP.

“They see the value of the technology in their daily operations and continue to expand their fuel cell fleets.”

Bill Elrick: 1,000 hydrogen stations by 2030 is achievable

In late 2018, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) mandated that California transit bus fleets must be zero emission by 2040, requiring that all bus purchases in 2029 and after must be battery electric or fuel cell electric.

It is the first vehicle category in California that is mandated to go all zero emission.

If transit agencies are to meet this 100% mandate, FCEBs will play an essential role, with long range, fast fuelling and other significant performance benefits that allow them to offer zero emissions with zero compromise.

In addition to helping California achieve clean air goals through substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, the volume of hydrogen required to fuel these buses will help drive down per-kilogram costs for all vehicle categories, including passenger cars.

The bus road map, developed by CaFCP members, lists 11 essential actions that are crucial to realising the 2029 milestone and 2040 target set by CARB:

  1. CARB to mandate inclusion of FCEBs in transit agency analyses for rollout plans, especially before granting exemptions.
  2. Transit agency boards to include fuel cell buses in zero emission bus feasibility studies and procurement efforts using current data from FCEB operators and manufacturers.
  3. Hydrogen infrastructure providers to promote “starter kits” and make costs known to transit agencies to engage them in fuel cell bus strategy conversations.
  4. Hydrogen suppliers to provide transit agencies with an attractive cost trajectory for hydrogen at scale for fleets of 50 or more fuel cell buses. Without an acceptable operating cost for a fleet-wide deployment, investments into pilot fleets will not make financial sense. Improve articulation of the argument of “cost control” advantage offered by hydrogen vs. electric grid.
  5. State and regional legislators and agencies to counter-balance the SB350 Transportation Electrification mandate that provides over $600 million CPUC-approved utility investments for medium- and heavy-duty charging infrastructure. Technology neutrality and parity should be extended to state funding and investments.
  6. Hydrogen producers, fuelling infrastructure providers and fuel cell vehicle providers continue to advance fuelling protocols, safety standards and practices to ensure reliable installations and reasonable permitting requirements.
  7. All stakeholders to engage the public with a broad and highly visible PR campaign. Key decision makers such as transit boards and legislators need to know they are backed by their constituency in supporting FCEBs.
  8. Governor to prioritise funding of heavy-duty hydrogen infrastructure and zero-emission buses, to help fulfil the “No diesel by 2030” campaign promise.
  9. Industry to provide turn-key bus and infrastructure packages for simplicity.
  10. State agencies to support ZEB grass roots training programs like those offered by the Centers of Excellence at SunLine and AC Transit. These are key in developing talent and ZEB maintenance staff.
  11. State of California, academia and/or regional air districts to evaluate the entire transformation toward zero emissions transport, the technical and economic impact on the grid and how hydrogen plays a crucial role to facilitate decarbonization to meet SB100 zero-carbon goals.

The road map also envisions bus purchase targets, sets new technical and cost milestone targets for industry, and presents commercial sustainability goals.

This bus road map complements and builds on the California Fuel Cell Partnership’s 2030 vision, The California Fuel Cell Revolution, which called for policies and market-based mechanisms that will help the Golden State achieve a sustainable market without government funding for cars, buses and trucks fuelled by renewable and zero-carbon hydrogen.

The road map can be read in full here.

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