BAE Systems joins fuel cell bus program

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The US Federal Transit Administration has selected BAE Systems to develop advanced hydrogen fuel-cell technology on a hybrid electric transit bus. The $5.35m FTA award is part of the agency’s National Fuel Cell Bus Technology Development Program. The award will be distributed over four years by WestStart CALSTART, a non-profit organisation that develops advanced transportation technologies.

‘Hybrid propulsion has proven its effectiveness in reducing vehicle emissions and fuel consumption,’ said John Boesel, president and CEO of WestStart CALSTART. ‘The addition of fuel-cell technology is a natural progression in the development of clean alternative energy, and we are pleased to join with BAE Systems on this important project.’

BAE Systems will lead the integration of a fuel-cell auxiliary power unit on a next-generation Orion VII hybrid transit bus from DaimlerChrysler Commercial Buses. The diesel-electric propulsion system on the bus will be functionally similar to those the company currently produces for three of the four largest North American hybrid bus fleets - New York, Toronto, and San Francisco - with the addition of a fuel cell to power several accessory systems on the bus.

According to BAE Systems, the fuel cell on the demonstration bus will use hydrogen to generate power, and water is the only waste product. It will support accessories such as air conditioning, air compressors, power steering, cooling fans and pumps, and a 28-volt electric power generator. The accessories, which consume a significant amount of energy, are normally powered by the bus’s diesel engine. Switching their power source to a fuel cell allows the engine to be shut off at bus stops and at traffic lights, making the bus quieter, cleaner, and more efficient compared to a conventional diesel bus.

BAE Systems is working with several partners on the program. DaimlerChrysler Commercial Buses North America produces the Orion VII bus; Hydrogenics will supply the fuel cells; and the San Francisco Municipal Railway will facilitate a year-long revenue-service test of the new system.