Brazil Unveils Hydrogen Bus

Hydrogen may just be making its come back in America, but its definitely gaining some momentum in Brazil. Earlier this week, Brazil announced plants to buy, operate and maintain up to five hydrogen-cell-fueled buses as well as install the station to produce the hydrogen to supply the fuel for the buses. The first vehicle will serve the ABD Metropolitan Corridor (Sao Mateus / Jabaquara), located in the Greater Sao Paulo area.

The bus uses a hybrid system that combines hydrogen cells with batteries. This strategy allows for increased fuel savings and lower energy use. The batteries can be used to store the energy generated by the cell during the periods when the vehicle is idle (for passenger boarding or at traffic lights, for instance), in addition to regenerating braking energy. The hydrogen fuel cell system – which generates 68kW – is specific for automotive use, making it less expensive. This is similar to how an electric car such as the Tesla, or a hybrid car such as the Volt works.

The development of a zero emission urban transportation system will contribute to reducing the environmental impact in large urban areas, such as Sao Paulo, which has the world’s largest bus fleet. Motor vehicles are responsible for 90 percent of air pollutants, with most buses having diesel engines with high emissions of NO2 and particulates.

As everyone who follows the ethanol industry, knows, Brazil is a leader and an early role model in ethanol production (not everything they do to produce ethanol should be emulated). Now, the country wants to become a leader in all energy renewable. MME Minister Edison Lobão noted that this project is a step in consolidated the country’s expertise in the use of renewable sources.

“This project results from a huge effort of the Ministry of Mines and Energy with its partners. With the hydrogen-fueled bus we are further developing the Brazilian economy,” he said.

José Lima, MME’s Secretary for Petroleum, Natural Gas and Renewable Fuels, said, “The Brazilian success with ethanol and biodiesel allows us to use hydrogen from renewable energy sources. From now on, our challenge will be to structure the hydrogen economy in Brazil,” he said. He also noted that this project is also a first for not only Brazil, but Latin America.

This is the first step in a country-wide program to develop a cleaner solution for urban public transportation in Brazil. The program is coordinated by the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) in partnership with the Urban Transportation Metropolitan Enterprise in Sao Paulo (EMTU/SP), and was financed with resources from the the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and the Studies Projects Funding Body (FINEP). And don’t forget the support of the United Nations Programs for Development (UNPD). I hope you’re taking notes because there is going to be a quiz at the end of this story. Good thing this is almost the end….

Brazil’s project was selected for financing by UNPD/GEF because the country boasts an emerging economy, with buses performing an important role in urban transportation. Likewise, Brazil is the world’s largest market for buses, and the leading producer of this kind of vehicle, with 50,000 units per year.

Joanna Schroeder

Joanna is a writer and consultant specializing in renewable energy and sustainable agriculture issues.