Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Green" Hydrogen Buses - A Dicey Bet

(San Jose, California) The (Silicon) Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) conducted a pilot program to test the feasibility of using zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell buses in its system. The effort was mandated by the state.

The results indicate that zero-emissions buses (ZEBs) cost $51.66 per mile to operate. Since it only costs $1.61 per mile to operate a diesel-powered bus, VTA officials are questioning whether ZEBs are prudent. Not only that, but the ZEBs break down more often and replacement parts are extremely difficult to obtain.
Although the cost of a new hydrogen-fuel-cell bus has fallen from about $3.5 million to $2.5 million, a diesel coach costs about $400,000. And ZEBs have on average traveled 1,100 miles before needing repairs in the VTA trial, while a typical diesel bus covers about 6,000 miles.
But the dismal dollar figures are not deterring the dedicated environmentalists at the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
Analifa Bevan with CARB said her agency "is not considering any changes," pointing out that the VTA experiment involves early prototypes and that the next generation of buses will be more reliable and "cheaper to operate than diesel."
Okay. However, a thoughtful observer might say that the CARB is being overly optimistic. Taking the cost from more than $50 per mile to less than $2 per mile in one generation of vehicles would be miraculous.

In any event, California citizens should prepare for their wallets to be pilfered. The state has mandated that all transportation agencies with 200 or more buses must have 15 percent of them as ZEBs within the next four years.

Companion post at The Jawa Report.

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