SERC Supports AC Transit’s HyRoad Program

AC Transit Safety Training

Emeryville firefighters pose in front of the latest AC Transit fuel cell bus during a SERC hydrogen awareness and safety training (Photo credit SERC).

Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District, more commonly known as AC Transit, boasts the largest hydrogen fuel cell bus program in the United States, and one of the largest in the world. This places them on the leading edge introducing hydrogen and fuel cell vehicle technology. Their HyRoad fuel cell vehicle demonstration program has operated since 2000. This program includes fuel cell bus and light duty fuel cell vehicle operation, on-site hydrogen production, delivery and storage of hydrogen produced off-site, hydrogen vehicle fueling, hydrogen vehicle maintenance, safety training, and public education. Throughout the project period, SERC has partnered with AC Transit, providing education and outreach, training, and consulting services.

The motivation for AC Transit’s HyRoad program comes in part from a California Air Resources Board (CARB) fleet rule established in February 2000. This rule set more stringent emission standards for urban buses and promoted the advancement of zero emission buses. Transit agencies were required to choose a compliance path, either alternative fuel or diesel. For those who chose the diesel path, such as AC Transit, they were required to adopt clean diesel technologies and to procure zero emission buses at a rate of 15% of all new bus purchases beginning in 2008. Although the zero emission bus purchase requirement was postponed and is currently under review, AC Transit has continued to move forward with their HyRoad program.

In the first few years of the HyRoad program, AC Transit tested a couple of early fuel cell bus designs and installed a small electrolytic hydrogen station at their Richmond Division. Then in 2004, the HyRoad program leapt forward. AC Transit partnered with Chevron Technology Ventures to design and build a hydrogen energy station at their East Oakland Division. This station included two reformers capable of generating 150 kg of hydrogen per day. It was commissioned in 2006, and served a newly acquired fleet of three fuel cell buses. In the five years that it operated, the station dispensed over 56,000 kg of hydrogen fuel. The fuel cell bus fleet traveled over 267,000 miles in normal passenger service, and achieved 1.6 to 2.0 times better fuel efficiency than their diesel counterparts. In support of this effort, SERC provided hydrogen safety and awareness training for AC transit staff, local fire fighters, and other emergency first responders.

AC Transit is now underway with the latest phase of their HyRoad program. They have recently installed a new hydrogen fueling station at their Emeryville Division. This station was designed and installed by Linde and features on-site hydrogen generation via solar powered electrolysis, as well as storage of liquid hydrogen that is transported from off-site via cryogenic tanker truck. The station stores over 2,500 kg of hydrogen and is designed to fuel buses and passenger vehicles at pressures of both 5,000 psig and 10,000 psig. This station will support a fleet of twelve new, state of the art fuel cell buses. This newest phase of the program is part of a larger demonstration project called Zero Emission Bay Area (ZEBA) that involves five transit agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area. SERC supported AC Transit in this latest phase by participating in design and safety review meetings for the hydrogen station, providing public outreach services, and providing training for emergency first responders from Emeryville and Oakland.

AC Transit Station - Peter, Jaime, Jim

Peter Lehman, Jaimie Levin and Jim Zoellick at the new Emeryville hydrogen fueling station. Jaimie is Director of Environmental Technology and the Fuel Cell Program Manager at AC Transit. (Photo credit Erik Tudbury.)

With this latest effort, AC Transit continues to lead the way in demonstrating and adopting hydrogen fuel cell vehicle technology in the US. At the same time, the development of hydrogen fueling infrastructure and the demonstration of fuel cell vehicles continues at a more rapid pace in Europe and Asia. All of these efforts are helping to pave the way for the automotive industry’s anticipated 2015 commercial launch of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in select places around the world.

For more information on AC Transit’s HyRoad program visit www.actransit.org/environment/the-hyroad.