The contract to manufacture the hydrogen fuel cell buses is worth 46.4 million Canadian dollars.

BC Transit – the crown agency that provides planning and funding support for all transit systems for most of British Columbia – said that the deployment of the new fleet of fuel cell buses ‘meets BC Transit’s objective to identify and adopt new technologies and improve air-quality.’

Kevin Mahoney, chair of BC Transit, said: “The fuel cell buses will provide the cleanest and most efficient propulsion technology in the long term. This will help BC Transit improve British Columbia’s quality of life by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improve the rider’s overall experience.”

Hydrogen fuel cell buses are carbon-neutral providing that the hydrogen is obtained using a ‘carbon-neutral’ method, but most hydrogen still has to be produced using energy derived from fossil fuel sources such as natural gas. However, this method still produces far lower emissions than traditional buses.

The new fuel-cell buses will arrive in Victoria next year for pre-production, with regular service to follow in 2010 and used as a ‘showcase’ for Canadian technology at the 2010 Winter games. The fleet of 20 buses will continue regular operations with an expected 20-year life span for each bus, BC Transit said.

Fuel cell buses have previously been trialed over the last few years in six cities across Europe and North America. The buses were tested on the streets of London, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Hamburg and British Columbia, to see if they were commercially viable.

Also, nine cities in Europe originally took part in the fuel cell bus trial known as CUTE (Clean Urban Transport for Europe), which ended in December 2005. However, the trial was such as success in London that it was extended by another year.

The trials took a closer look at how to best develop clean urban transport systems, which combine energy efficiency with cost-effectiveness.

Transport for London (TFL) is now also testing diesel hybrid-electric buses on a central route, with vehicles operating using a combination of a conventional diesel engine and an electric motor, reducing emissions of local pollutants and carbon dioxide by at least 30% compared to a conventional diesel bus.

TFL says that if the trials prove successful, a wider introduction into the fleet will be encouraged.

Dana Gornitzki

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