CHBC Executive Director Leads Panel at ARB Zero Emission Bus Symposium

The 2019 Zero-Emission Bus Technology Symposium and Showcase, hosted by the California Air Resources Board on February 6-7, 2019, provided transit agencies (TAs) with information about the Innovative Clean Transit (ICT) Regulation that passed late last year.

As part of the ICT, large transit agencies are required to develop plans by July 2020 on how they will comply with the requirements that all bus purchases beginning in 2029 be zero emission and mandating entire fleets consist of zero emission buses (ZEBs) by 2040. The event covered both battery and fuel cell electric buses and the associated infrastructure requirements.

The presentations and discussion indicate that battery buses are ahead in testing by Transit Agencies (TAs), due to the comparative ease of testing the technology in low numbers. TAs are getting experience with battery buses at a time when they will begin developing plans to scale up their zero emission fleets, even if they haven’t tested fuel cell electric buses. Getting hydrogen fueling in place for a small test fleet is viewed as difficult and expensive. In the meantime, Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison are beginning programs to help agencies get the electric infrastructure in place for battery buses, with no similar assistance for fuel cell electric buses.

After the opening session on starting a ZEB fleet, both technologies were treated equally on the agenda, with separate sessions for each on fuel/electricity costs and infrastructure scale up. Jaimie Levin from CHBC member CTE moderated the hydrogen costs and infrastructure challenges session with experts from CHBC members Air Liquide and Trillium, as well as Air Products and Shell. CHBC Executive Director Jeff Serfass moderated the session on scaling up hydrogen infrastructure with a panel of experts from CHBC members NEL, Trillium and Plug Power, as well as Air Products and NICE America.

News reported:

  • ARB Executive Officer Richard Corey highlighted that Antelope Valley Transit is now 100% ZEB
  • Sal Llamas, AC Transit Chief Operating Officer updated everyone on the continually growing life time of their best performing fuel cell stack, now at 33,000 hours with many buses over 20,000 hours, on stacks designed with a 5,000 hours guarantee.
  • With the desire to manage demand charges and different states of charge of buses coming into the year, individual battery buses may require different ways to get a full fast charge. Auxiliary loads are significant and can limit battery range.
  • 50% of electric bill for charging can come from the demand charge and reducing demand charge costs requires slower charges with longer times; need to schedule buses to limit demand charge costs. Waiving of demand charges by electric IOUs for an initial time period skews actual costs of electricity as a fuel.
  • Antelope Valley TA said that battery bus operators need to be retrained for better driving behavior, with a 20% savings reported
  • Hydrogen costs of $5/kg needs to be the goal. Current hydrogen prices are too high
  • Foothill Transit’s Robert Cordero reported that scaling up infrastructure for 100% battery buses is a daunting process, involving facilities design and construction, depot layout, marketing route planning electric transformer and utility grid, renewable energy analysis and back-up power.
  • Ray Engel, Sierra Club, applauded CHBC endorsement of the Hydrogen Council’s goal of 100% decarbonized hydrogen for transportation.
  • Southern California Edison’s Damon Hannaman described their “Charge Ready Transport Program” for LDV, MD/HD and transport with $356 M from ratepayer funds