Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) in Canada has expertise and experience with hydrogen buses. They just can’t use them anymore. Unfortunately, the buses proved too expensive to run and so the buses are being shipped back to Ford.
According to CBC News, the buses arrived on P.E.I. in 2007 and had been running until just recently when the funding for the buses ran out. The buses were originally a joint experiment between Ford and Charlottetown. The original idea was that wind turbines at North Cape on P.E.I. would produce the hydrogen for the vehicles. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out.
Instead hydrogen had to be imported from Quebec which was expensive. As it turned out money for the experiment was provided by Ottawa ($275,000), the province ($100,000), and the fuel supplier, Air Liquide ($175,000). Unfortunately, the money ran out last summer and the buses were mothballed. Requests to Ottawa for $400,000 to $500,000 to run the buses for an additional two years were not funded which means the buses are headed back to Ford.
The buses produced water as their only exhaust making them extremely clean to run. But even clean vehicles have to have easily obtainable and affordable fuel supplies. Having to truck in hydrogen from Quebec was the first indication that this experiment was probably on rocky ground. The fact that it took two hours every morning to fuel the buses was another problem issue.
Two companies, Horizon Fuel Cell and Proton Energy both have stated that without home hydrogen stations, hydrogen fueled vehicles will not be widely adopted. Charlottetown’s experience proves this point. If the city had been able to generate the hydrogen fuel for the buses on site, much of the cost would have been eliminated but such facilities don’t exist locally.
Companies like Horizon and Proton Energy are improving their technology and providing equipment for refueling hydrogen fuel cells as well as the fuel cells themselves. Horizon has solid fuel cells that can be used in place of batteries and can be refilled at home. The company also provides fuel cells that run unmanned aerial vehicles, electric cars and UPS power systems.
Proton Energy Systems makes a hydrogen fueling system that uses water and electricity to create the fuel. The company is also working with military and civilian governments to provide hydrogen storage with their regenerative fuel cell (RFC) energy storage systems.
Next time Charlottetown or Ford decide to experiment with hydrogen forms of transportation they might want to keep companies like Horizon and Proton Energy in mind. Otherwise, the next experiment just might end like this one.
Photo from H2 Vehicles