Following a tour of SunLine Transit’s Sunfuels Fueling Station in Thousand Palms, CA Federal Transit Administrator James Simpson and Congresswoman Mary Bono announced $49 million in federal grants for researchers around the country to explore new ways to make commercially viable hydrogen fuel cell buses a reality.
Three nonprofit organizations from around the country were competitively selected by the FTA to receive a share of the $49 million: the Center for Transportation and the Environment in Atlanta, the Northeast Advanced Vehicle Consortium in Boston and Westart/CALSTART of Pasadena, California.
“By funding this program, Congress has allowed the transit industry to continue its long tradition as an innovator in the areas of alternative fuels and technology,” said FTA Administrator James Simpson. “Through this national program, we can consolidate—and accelerate—the process of making hydrogen buses commercially feasible as cleaner, more energy efficient alternatives”.
Simpson said that Hydrogen fuel cell buses offer zero-emissions transportation in some of the nation’s most congested corridors, reducing potential health risks to the general population. Also, transit officials expect that clean, quiet, energy-efficient transit buses will enhance the attractiveness of public transportation, lead to increased ridership, and move the nation toward energy independence.
As one of the champions for the new program Congresswoman Mary Bono (R-CA) stated "The expansion and use of fuel cell and hydrogen technology is a necessary and innovative step to significantly reduce dependency on foreign oil. Americans and Congress must continue to support legislation that strengthens any efforts to diversify our nation's energy portfolio."
Another champion for the program, Congressman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) said “Today, I welcome the progress that the FTA is making with the award of grants under the National Fuel Cell Bus Program. Fuel cells are an important enabling technology that has the potential to reduce America’s dependency on fossil fuels. This program will help accelerate the successful commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell propulsion for the transportation industry.”
Simpson noted that SunLine Transit, along with its research partners will receive $2.8 million to design and demonstrate 40-foot fuel cell buses, and to evaluate their performance in a hot desert climate. SunLine is also among those receiving $3.6 million to test the life expectancy of an existing line of fuel cell buses.
Another example on the East Coast includes the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). WMATA and with its research partners will receive $8.4 million for advanced bus development and in-service evaluation of hybrid fuel cell buses.
The multimillion dollar national grant announcement was made possible through the National Fuel Cell Bus Technology Development Program, which was part of the recently enacted Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).