U.S. Consortium Develops Zero-Emission Transit Vehicles

The consortium is completing design work on a hybrid fuel cell transit vehicle that will service the downtown New Haven.

Published: 27-Jan-2006

Washington, D.C. -- An advanced transit consortium is working to provide zero-emission transit vehicles to the Greater New Haven Transit District to assist New Haven Mayor John DeStefano in meeting his goals of reducing mobile source emissions and threats to public health. The project at the Greater New Haven Transit District is called Origen One.

The consortium is completing design work on a hybrid fuel cell transit vehicle that will service the downtown New Haven area 14-16 hours a day, 7 days a week without discharging harmful emissions to the environment. The fuel cell will operate on hydrogen gas, producing electricity for vehicle operation. The only emissions will be water (H2O), which is not harmful to the citizens or the environment.

Production of the hybrid-electric transit vehicle is expected to begin late in the Second Quarter of 2006. Vehicle testing the following year and revenue service is anticipated to begin in 2008. A second hydrogen vehicle is expected to be delivered in 2009 employing a hydrogen internal combustion engine.

The successful demonstration of this transit vehicle will lead the effort to phase out diesel-powered public transit and its associated regulated emissions both on the local and national level.

"Diesel fuel buses create thousands of tons of harmful emissions," said Lee Grannis, a consultant to the Origen One program and the Executive Director of the Greater New Haven Clean Cities Coalition. "We have found the proper configuration to reliably power a public transit vehicle without creating by-products that threaten human health and negatively impact the atmosphere. The future is now – we can move people cleanly."

These new buses help to address Mayor DeStefano’s concern with the high incidents of childhood asthma in the New Haven area which can be partly attributed to the particulates created through the operation of diesel engines. Heightened cases of childhood asthma in recent years have increased awareness regarding the effects of diesel emissions. With help from the Mayor’s office as well as Representative Rosa DeLauro and Senators Dodd and Lieberman, this initiative has evolved from theoretical concept to a reality.

The vehicles to be delivered as part of the Origen One program are being designed to be affordable for average cities throughout the country. The New Haven demonstration project has already attracted interest from several other federal agencies including the EPA as well as other transit agencies across America and abroad.

These hydrogen-fueled transit vehicles are designed to perform as well or better than conventional diesel buses. They will have the same passenger capacity and safety specifications, yet will be more energy-efficient, have better handling, and will be more accessible to persons with disabilities.

The transition from fossil fuel-powered engines to clean hydrogen fuel cells avoids the creation of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and particulates. These emissions, which are produced in great quantities by diesel fleets, contribute to smog formation and the greenhouse effect.

"The New Haven area is leading the way to future transportation approaches," said Donna Carter, Executive Director of the Greater New Haven Transit District. "This project is innovative and bold, not only in the technology that will power the vehicle, but also the manner in which the program is structured with the Integrated Product Development (IPD) Team environment."

The longer-term goals of lessening U.S. dependence on foreign energy sources will also be realized more rapidly as a result of this combined approach to implementing advanced technologies.

"Hydrogen will be an important segment of our future energy mix," said Carla York, CEO of Innovation Drive. "This project is an important first step in moving toward that future, and we are pleased to be a part of the effort, working with our partners from the Gas Technology Institute, Avalence and Mobile Energy Solutions."

The IPD Team is comprised of industry leaders in their respective disciplines, including: Gas Technology Institute (hydrogen reformation fueling system), Avalence, a Milford, CT-based company (electrolytic hydrogen fueling systems in conjunction with renewable or grid power supply), Mobile Energy Solutions (overall vehicle design and manufacture), Innovation Drive (project planning, marketing and commercialization), along with Hydrogenics (fuel cell design and manufacture), and Sabre Engineering (vehicles controls and electronic systems).

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