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One of the world’s most technologically advanced and environmentally friendly buses will hit the streets of Austin this month.
The University’s Center for Electromechanics and Capital Metro have teamed up to unveil the Hydrogen Hybrid Bus and its fueling station. The bus will be in daily operation alongside UT shuttles, alternating between the Forty Acres and Intramural Field routes, as part of a yearlong demonstration of how to refine public transit fuel cell technology.
Texas already leads the United States in wind energy. Now the state is also focusing on hydrogen-powered transportation, hoping to push this technology into the mainstream.
In early March, the fuel cell bus joined Capital Metro’s fleet for phase two of its project demonstration. The Austin showcase aims to significantly improve fuel efficiency and to reduce emissions among transit vehicles. Previously, the bus operated in South Carolina and British Columbia.
During its time on the UT campus, researchers at the Center for Electromechanics will catalog the bus’ impact, collecting data regularly on performance, efficiency, and fuel consumption. Maintenance problems will also be measured to figure out ways the technology can be improved.
“One of the main goals of this bus is not only to have commercial acceptance, but a wide general public acceptance of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies,” says Michael Lewis, senior engineering scientist and lead manager of the project at UT. “[We want people to] realize this is a good alternative to diesel engines.”
The zero-emissions bus—water vapor is its only exhaust—operates on a plug-in rechargeable lithium battery pack. The fuel cells that power the bus can be charged in 10 minutes and provide enough energy to keep the vehicle running for hours.
Along with a cleaner atmosphere, passengers can expect a much quieter environment when taking the bus, because the engine makes little noise.
The sole purpose of Capital Metro’s partnership with the University is to serve students, exposing the next generation to new technology that saves resources, Lewis says.
“I think students will have a very positive opinion of the new technology,” Lewis says. “They are going to get on that bus and notice a remarkably different experience than when riding a diesel engine bus.”