Monday, June 16, 2008

Hydrogen fuel cell buses

Fuel cell buses are clean, quiet, electrically propelled vehicles that emit only water vapor from the tailpipe. That sounds promising, but it literally comes at a cost.

The fuel cell bus on the image on the left belongs to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). As it happens I came across an article on, which describes itself as delivering 'insightful commentary on the automotive industry'.

The mentioned article, titled 'Fuel-Cell Experiment Misses the Bus' states: 'Some cost and durability figures for operating hydrogen fuel-cell powered buses have leaked out, and from them it appears the best thing that can be said is it’s a good thing it’s a demonstration program'.

A memo directed to the Santa Clara VTA’s board of directors indicated operating the buses has cost the Santa Clara VTA a staggering 32 times more than the overall running cost for comparable diesel-engine buses, says AutoObserver. Some interesting figures:

- cost per mile for to operate a diesel bus: $1.61; the fuel-cell buses: $51.66.
- per-mile parts cost for a diesel bus: 21 cents; the fuel-cell buses: $34.40.
- hydrogen fuel costs: about five times that of the diesel buses.

And as if the fuel is not expensive enough already, the memo said that about 50 percent of the hydrogen fuel escaped into the atmosphere while refueling.

The fuel-cell buses are not very dependable, and are shockingly expensive to fix. They averaged about 1,100 miles between road calls. The figure for diesel buses is roughly six times better.

All of which proves once more that fairytales are far from reality. Using water for fuel will not solve all of our problems, and it's painfully clear it will take more than a little time before we will all be traveling across the city in a zero-polluting fuell cell bus.

Read the article on

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