Unique Hydrogen-Fueled Bus Joins Public Transit Fleet To Promote Clean Transportation

May 19, 1997

A coalition of academic, government and private industry partners has built a prototype hydrogen-fueled, electric-powered transit bus that produces near-zero emissions.

The H2Fuel Bus is the first vehicle to feature this unique hybrid power system, which uses hydrogen fuel stored in metal hydrides. It was delivered to the Augusta-Richmond County Public Transit in late April, where it will be used as part of regular operations for one year.

"There is no other hydrogen-fueled vehicle like this," said Charles M. Stancil, a senior research engineer in the Georgia Tech Research Institute's (GTRI)
GTRI's role in the project was to integrate and test the 33-foot bus's internal combustion engine, electrical generator and drive motor, and metal hydride fuel storage system.

Bus Will Provide Information on Hydrogen Fuel By using the bus as a public transit vehicle, researchers hope to gain valuable experience and raise public awareness and acceptance of hydrogen as an alternative fuel of the future.

"The actual transit experience over the next year will provide critical data for the commercialization of hydrogen vehicles," said Dr. William A. Summers of the Westinghouse Savannah River Co., another project partner. "Operating data will provide a measurement of the performance, reliability and maintainability of the various system components, primarily the hydrogen engine and the metal hydride storage system."

Primary sponsors of this technology transfer and economic development project include the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Augusta-Richmond County Public Transit. The metal hydride storage system was developed at DOE's Savannah River Site near Augusta and provided by the company that oversees this facility, the Westinghouse Savannah River Co.

Other major partners include the Southeastern Technology Center in Augusta, which is handling project management and public awareness activities; Hydrogen Components Inc. of Littleton, Colo.; the Education, Research and Development Association of Georgia Universities; and Blue Bird Body Co. of Fort Valley, Ga.

Hydrogen Ideal Replacement for Fossil Fuels Proponents of hydrogen fuel say it is an ideal replacement for fossil fuels, which release gaseous oxides of carbon and nitrogen when they're burned, causing air pollution and contributing to global warming. Burning hydrogen fuel, in contrast, produces water vapor that contains no carbon dioxide (CO2) and little or no nitrogen oxide (NOx).

Although most hydrogen fuel in use today is produced with natural gas through a process that produces CO2, it can be created from water through renewable and non-polluting energy sources like wind and solar power.

"If you're concerned about the carbon cycle in the world, you have to look at hydrogen," said John C. Handley, a principal research engineer in GTRI's Aerospace Science & Transportation Laboratory. "We [think] we could get some real support from the environmental community for this."

Metal Hydrides Provide Hydrogen Storage The technology of the H2Fuel Bus includes the metal hydride storage system, which fuels a standard internal combustion engine, which in turn drives a 70-kilowatt electrical generator that keeps the bus's batteries charged.

Metal hydrides are intermetallic alloys that, when cooled, absorb hydrogen gas into a solid form. The H2Fuel Bus uses a metallic nickel powder distributed in an aluminum foam material called Duocel®. When the hydrides are heated by energy from the bus's generator, they slowly release the hydrogen as a gas to power the bus's engine.

The bus currently carries 5,000 cubic feet of hydrogen and can travel over 100 miles before refueling. The electrical system is powered by 56 12-volt ElectroSource deep-discharge, lead-acid batteries, which charge continually while the hydrogen engine is operating.

H2Fuel Bus Different From Other Hydrogen Vehicles Although the bus is unique, hydrogen-fueled vehicles are being developed throughout the world, most with more costly hydrogen fuel cells. In contrast, the internal combustion engine technology developed for the H2Fuel Bus offers a near-term, cost-effective alternative for cities trying to achieve near-zero emission levels, said Dr. Earl J. Claire, executive director of the Southeastern Technology Center.

Currently, widespread use of hydrogen is hindered by public perception about its safety and a lack of infrastructure for large-scale production and distribution. But researchers say metal hydrides allow hydrogen -- the universe's lightest gas and most abundant element -- to be converted from a highly reactive gas to a safe solid form.

Researchers say that if this project goes well, it could be a major step toward widespread acceptance of hydrogen as an alternative transportation fuel.

"We have met the challenge of making hydrogen a safe fuel for public transportation," said Dr. Mario Fiori, operations manager of the DOE's Savannah River Site. "Now the challenge is to make these buses more economical."

Other industrial participants for the H2Fuel Bus project include Energy Research and Generation Inc., Power Technology Southeast Inc., Air Products and Chemicals Inc., Air Liquide America Corp., and Northrop Grumman Corp.
430 Tenth St. N.W., Suite N-112
Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgia Tech: John Toon (404-894-6986);
Internet: john.toon@edi.gatech.edu;
fax: (404-894-6983)
Southeastern Technology Center: Jane McCoggins (706-722-3490;
Internet: JMcCoggins@aol.comTECHNICAL:
Charles M. Stancil (770-528-3224) or
Dr. Earl J. Claire (706-722-3490);
Internet: charles.stancil@gtri.gatech.edu or

WRITER: Amanda Crowell

Georgia Institute of Technology

Related Academic Articles from Brightsurf:

Heavy TV and computer use impacts children's academic results
Grade 3 students who watch more than two hours of TV daily or spend more than one hour a day on a computer experience a decline in academic results two years later, a new study has found.

Social networks can support academic success
Social networks have been found to influence academic performance: students tend to perform better with high-performers among their friends, as some people are capable of inspiring others to try harder, according to Sofia Dokuka, Dilara Valeyeva and Maria Yudkevich of the HSE University.

Is COVID-19 widening the gender gap in academic medicine?
A new study finds that fewer women were first authors on COVID-19-related research papers published in the first half of this year.

It's not about money -- why academic scientists engage in commercial activities
For scientists, engaging in commercial activities such as patenting and starting new ventures can be much more lucrative than relying on pure academic work.

Academic emergency departments are always open to all who need care
''Academic emergency departments never deny emergency care to any person.'' That is the statement put forth in a commentary from the Board of Directors of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine and the Senior Editorial Board of Academic Emergency Medicine journal.

Study busts 9 to 5 model for academic work
An observational study of academic working hours has identified large differences in how researchers around the world manage their work-life balance.

Is overall screen time associated with academic performance in kids, teens?
Screen time overall wasn't associated with the academic performance of children and adolescents in this observational study.

Fighting academic failures
Children from undereducated, low-income families face a greater risk of poor academic performance.

Citations show academic and non-academic researchers 'win' when they collaborate
Findings in new PNAS paper indicate that when academics work with business, government, and/or NGO partners they produce more cited, higher impact research.

Women much less likely to ask questions in academic seminars than men
A new study reveals a stark disparity between male and female participation in departmental seminars which helps to explain the 'leaky pipeline' of female representation in academic careers.

Read More: Academic News and Academic Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.