Campbell reaffirms support for hydrogen bus fleet 

Whistler buses part of province's plan to reduce greehouse gases

The province reaffirmed its commitment to a fleet of hydrogen-powered buses in Whistler at the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells 2007 conference in Vancouver today.

British Columbia and the federal government have committed $89 million to the project which will include hydrogen fuelling stations in Whistler and Victoria, the world’s first fleet of 20 fuel cell powered buses, and funding to operate the fleet for five years.

“Our goal is to see the world’s first fleet of fuel cell buses on B.C. roads by the end of 2009 to showcase B.C.’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the potential of hydrogen technology as an energy solution,” Premier Gordon Campbell said in a release.

“This funding will ensure that the hydrogen highway that will run from Whistler to Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria will become a reality,” he added. “We will continue our work with our partners in the U.S. to extend the Hydrogen Highway from Whistler to San Diego by 2010.”

The first phase of the project began last November with the province providing $10 million for a request for proposals that called for the development of a pre-production hydrogen fuel cell bus. B.C. Transit is now in contract negotiations with the top proponent for this initial bus and the subsequent production phase.

The federal government is now providing $45 million through its Public Transit Capital Trust for the production of the 20 buses and to develop the hydrogen fuelling stations in Whistler and Victoria. B.C. Transit last week issued a request for proposals for the development of the fuelling stations.

The remaining $34 million will be used by B.C. Transit to operate the fleet for up to five years.

The goal of the project is to demonstrate the integration of hydrogen fuel cell buses into the regular operational service of an urban transit system, allowing monitoring of operations, maintenance and fuelling over a sustained period.

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

In February’s Throne Speech the provincial government pledged to reduce the province’s greenhouse gas emissions by 33 per cent by 2020. Last week Campbell announced that B.C. was joining five western U.S. states to partner in the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative, which aims to identify, evaluate and implement ways to collectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the region. Campbell said today the hydrogen bus project is “…the type of project that can help build momentum towards reducing greenhouse gases across all borders as we work with our partners in the U.S. and across Canada.”

Campbell also announced $155,000 in government funding to support the development of a new undergraduate fuel cell systems design laboratory at the University of Victoria’s Institute for Integrated Energy Systems.

Hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles produce no smog-creating emissions, and no greenhouse gas emissions, and can be twice as efficient as internal combustion engines. Life cycle costs for fuel cell buses — once they become commercially available — are expected to be lower than existing internal combustion engine technology.

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