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Contract awarded for hydrogen-powered buses

Fleet of 20 buses will begin operation in Whistler in late 2009


A $46.4 million contract to build a fleet of 20 hydrogen fuel cell buses, expected to begin operation in Whistler in late 2009, has been awarded to New Flyer Industries of Winnipeg.

There have been several hydrogen buses used in pilot projects around the world but the plan to bring 20 to Whistler makes it the largest fleet of its kind in the world.

In March B.C. Transit announced it would be building a hydrogen fuelling station in Whistler to service the fleet of buses which, according to a Ministry of Transportation release, will be “…a very visible part of public transportation during the 2010 Winter Olympics.”

The release also states that “…the new fleet will initially be based in Whistler…”

Anita Wasiuta, a spokesperson for B.C. Transit said the word “initially” should not have been in the release and that the intention is the hydrogen-powered buses stay in Whistler.

The low-floor buses will cost $2.1 million each, have a range of 500 km, a top speed of 90 km/h and a life expectancy of 20 years.

A regular diesel bus costs approximately $500,000.

B.C. Transit will provide $34 million to cover the day-to-day operations of this new bus fleet for a period of up to five years. What happens after the operations funding runs out at the end of 2014 is unclear.

The 20-bus fleet is an $89 million project funded by the federal and provincial governments. In November 2006, the province dedicated an initial $10 million for development of the hydrogen fuel cell bus concept. The federal Public Transit Capital Trust fund committed $45 million to the fuel cell bus fleet and accompanying hydrogen fuelling stations. B.C. Transit’s contribution is the $34 million for operating the buses.

The three main sub-contractors for the bus fleet are ISE Corporation of San Diego, which is responsible for the hybrid drive system; Ballard Power Systems of Burnaby, which will provide the fuel cell modules; and Dynetek Industries of Calgary, which will work on the hydrogen storage system.

Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon said in the release: “These hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles… produce no smog-creating emissions and no greenhouse gas emissions, and they can be twice as efficient as internal combustion engines. The life cycle costs for fuel cell buses are expected to be lower than existing internal combustion engine technology."

B.C. Transit Chair Kevin Mahoney said the fuel cell buses will provide “the cleanest and most efficient propulsion technology in the long term.”

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