U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently announced that $13.1 million in federal funding will go toward research and demonstration projects under the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) National Fuel Cell Bus Program. The program aims to advance hydrogen fuel cell power for transit buses and reflects the Obama administration’s commitment to address the U.S.’s energy challenges, reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil and promote cleaner air.

fuel cell bus The National Fuel Cell Bus program aims to develop and research fuel cell bus transportation for public transit and to spread public awareness of fuel cell-powered vehicles. Credit: National Renewable Energy Laboratory

“President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy includes adopting alternative fuels that let transit agencies bypass the gas pump altogether and reduce our carbon footprint,” said LaHood. “This investment moves us closer to achieving the President’s goal of reducing oil imports by a third in a little over a decade.”

The funds were disbursed between CALSTART in Pasadena, Calif.; the Center for Transportation and the Environment in Atlanta and the Northeast Advanced Vehicle Consortium in Boston. All three will engage in work to develop various fuel cell components, test American-made buses under real-world conditions powered by fuel cells and conduct educational outreach.

“With gas prices on the rise, we know that the availability of reliable transit as a transportation choice is a significant part of relieving the pain at the pump for millions of riders each day,” said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff. “And, the Department is taking it a step further by investing in a new generation of clean-fuel technology to make transit an even more significant part of our nation’s overall approach to a secure energy future.”

The funding aims to bring fuel cell buses into commercial service faster, which would have a positive impact on the environment, as well as save energy. According to the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) and the FTA, every fuel cell-powered bus put into service in the U.S. could reduce carbon released into the atmosphere by 100 tons annually, as well as eliminate the need for 9,000 gallons of fuel every year over the life of the vehicle. That translates into a savings of more than $37,000 per year per vehicle for buses currently running on diesel fuel.

The FTA’s National Fuel Cell Bus Program was created to develop affordable hydrogen fuel cell buses for the nation’s public transit agencies and to increase public acceptance of fuel cell-powered vehicles. The 11 projects were selected among 26 proposals seeking $52 million in federal funds.

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