Once again, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority and NASA are teaming up to demonstrate how a fuel cell-powered bus can perform in a fairly large transit system.
I believe this essentially is the same project that was initially announced three years ago that would allow NASA to demonstrate its electrolysis technology, the RTA to test performance (and get some PR mileage) and UTC Power to show off its 57-passenger bus, powered by a proton exchange membrane system. Back then, the plan was to have equipment from NASA’s Glenn Research Center harvest hydrogen from the waters of Lake Erie and a hydrogen fueling station was supposed to be located in downtown Cleveland at the Great Lakes Science Center.
Apparently, the 2009 efforts got bogged down, but, according to a report (pdf) recently presented to the authority’s operations committee, NASA and RTA developed plans for a new partnership along similar lines in 2011. According to the report and a Plain Dealer story on the Cleveland.com website, a hydrogen-fueling station would be installed at an East Cleveland bus garage. NASA would provide the on-site electrolysis technology, UTC would provide a zero-cost, one-year lease for the bus, which has price tag of over $2 million. Besides the electrolyzer, the RTA would also acquire a hydrogen storage tank, and a compressor for the new fuel dispensing station. The RTA says its cash outlay would be limited to $50,000.
Although a majority of the RTA board voted in favor of the project, not everyone is gung-ho on the idea. The website’s story notes that East Cleveland community officials have concerns about the safety of the fueling station, and at least one member of the RTA board called it a “dumb project.”
Here is a quick video tour of one of the UTC busses: