Plug-In Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bus Has 6 Minute Recharge Time


Burbank — the only city in Los Angeles County named after a Dentist (thank you Wikipedia!) — can now claim that it’s more than just the “media capital of the world.” They’ve been chosen as one of only two test markets in the US for the introduction of a zero-emissions, ultra-quiet, plug-in hybrid electric hydrogen fuel cell bus. And here’s the clincher: it can recharge its batteries in just six minutes.

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The prototype bus is being designed and manufactured by Colorado-based Proterra. It can travel 250 miles before needing to be recharged, runs at double the fuel economy of a diesel bus, and emits nothing but water vapor from its tailpipes. The bus will be officially unveiled in a spring 2009 ceremony and then go into immediate service on the BurbankBus network.

The vehicle operates in a similar fashion to other plug-in hybrids, such as the upcoming Chevy Volt, but instead of having a gas- or diesel-powered engine to extend the range of one charge, the Proterra bus uses hydrogen fuel cells. The fuel cells are fed from tanks located on the vehicle’s roof, and transform hydrogen and oxygen into water vapor and electricity to charge the batteries.

The fast charge batteries, provided by the Hydrogenics Corporation, are made of lithium titanate — and it’s simply amazing that they can be recharged in 6 minutes. By the time the bus driver finishes his soy chai latte, the bus’ll be good to go again.

With a capacity of 37 people sitting and 30 people standing — even while cutting 5 feet off the length of a typical municipal bus — this is no wanna-be bus. In a conventional bus, those 5 feet are taken up with a bulky diesel engine and assorted accouterments. Besides being 5 feet shorter, the bus also saves on weight due to construction from lightweight composites.

At a cool $2 million, you won’t be seeing RV versions of these things any time soon. But these are prototypes, and most of that $2 million cost is being picked up by a $1.3 million state grant from the California Alternative Fuel Incentive Program.

Even so, the price tag seems a but humorous to me considering that, on their front page, Proterra boasts, “Finally, vehicles that are friendly to both your budget and the environment.” Oh yeah, they also scream “12 YEAR LEASE FINANCING AVAILABLE WITH NO DOWN PAYMENT” on the bottom of their products web page. LOL!

And if you can say “plug-in hybrid electric hydrogen fuel cell bus” 10 times fast without getting tongue-tied, you get a gold star! It seems that as the technology for these things advances, our ability to name them gets worse and worse.

Source: BurbankBus

Image Credit: Proterra

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.