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UTC Power fuel cell system passes 5000 hour durability milestone in AC Transit bus

A PureMotion® Model 120 PEM fuel cell power plant from Connecticut-based UTC Power has surpassed 5000 operating hours in real-world service in a hybrid-electric transit bus, with its original cell stacks and no cell replacements. The latest-generation 120 kW UTC Power fuel cell power plant is installed in an Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) bus operating in the Greater Oakland, California area.

Three AC Transit buses are equipped with UTC Power fuel cell systems, and have now traveled a total of more than 213 000 miles (343 000 km), with an average fuel economy that is 65% better than the control fleet of diesel buses running the same routes and duty cycles.

‘Stack durability matters. It is recognized by the industry as a key challenge in commercializing fuel cell vehicles worldwide,’ says Vice President for Transportation at UTC Power, Ken Stewart.

Stewart continues: ‘The last time we serviced the stacks in that bus, all of the candidates for President still had nine months of campaigning to do. UTC Power has significantly improved fuel cell stack durability, and we’re confident that our progress will continue.’

Fuel cell buses have a significant effect on reducing greenhouse gases, ranging from a 43% reduction over diesel buses if hydrogen is supplied by reforming natural gas, up to a 100% reduction when hydrogen is generated from onsite renewable sources like solar and wind power.

A recent report on worldwide hydrogen bus demonstration programs completed on behalf of the Federal Transit Administration – part of the US Department of Transportation – noted that zero-emission buses performed well across a wide range of operating conditions, including hilly and flat terrain, hot and cold temperatures, and high- and low-speed duty cycles.

The study found no major safety issues over millions of miles of vehicle service, and most participants found that drivers preferred fuel cell buses to compressed natural gas or diesel, noting their smooth ride, ease of operation, strong acceleration, and ability to maneuver well in traffic.

‘Demonstrations of fuel cell buses in real-world service significantly lower greenhouse gases today, and are essential to commercial fuel cell product introductions in the future,’ says UTC Power’s Stewart. ‘We are extremely pleased to have a visionary company like AC Transit as a partner, and look forward to many more years of a successful collaboration in advancing fuel cell bus technology.’

UTC Power has provided fuel cell power plants for fleet transportation since 1998, and its fuel cells have powered buses in the US, Spain, Italy, and Belgium. The latest-generation proton-exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell system from UTC Power has accumulated more than 350 000 miles (560 000 km) of commercial service for city transit bus fleets.

UTC Power – part of United Technologies Corporation – is a world leader in developing and producing fuel cells for onsite power in buildings and for transportation applications.

AC Transit serves more than 1.5 million people in 13 cities (including Oakland and Berkeley) and two counties on the east side of the San Francisco Bay Area.

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