SARTA Zero-Emission Technology

 In Family, Health and Fitness

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By Kristie Petty-Cox

In 2011 SARTA began perusing grant funds to build a state-of-the-art Zero Emissions fleet. Today we have a state-of-the-art Hydrogen Fueling Facility, which recently completed construction, and two of ten Hydrogen Fuel Cell buses. Construction of the $1.6 million fueling facility was funded by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and from local sales tax contributions of about $100,000.

In the spring we accepted delivery of two of our ten Hydrogen buses. They are currently being used for research and testing at Ohio States Center for Automotive Research and Altoona Bus Testing and Research Center at Penn State in Altoona, PA. Our willingness to enter into agreements for this type of research and testing is one of the primary reasons we were able to obtain the federal and state funding that is paying for the entire cost of the first two vehicles. Normally, we would be required to have a 20% local match to purchase the buses; however, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) match is not required because of the agreements we have with Ohio State and Penn State. That means a savings of more than $1.6 million dollars for us and taxpayers. The cost of the fuel cell buses are being funded by $20 million in state and federal grants.

Our new Hydrogen Fueling Station functions like the system we use to refuel our fleet of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles. The hydrogen system consists of:

• A tank that stores the pressurized hydrogen after it is delivered by a tanker truck
• A high-pressure buffer storage system which delivers gaseous hydrogen to the vehicle tank
• A compressor that pressurizes hydrogen
• A refrigeration system that pre-cools the hydrogen gas being dispensed

The hydrogen dispenser looks similar to a gasoline dispenser. Most dispensers have two hoses, one for H35 (5,000 psi) and one for H70 (10,000 psi). These are not interchangeable; a driver cannot connect the H70 nozzle to a vehicle with a H35 tank. Putting hydrogen into a fuel tank is similar to dispensing CNG or filling a propane tank and sounds like filling a tire with air. The driver connects the nozzle to the vehicle’s receptacle to form a tight seal. If the seal isn’t complete, the fuel won’t flow. Once the connection is firm, fuel flows from the storage cylinders into a cooling unit in the dispenser and into the vehicle’s tank. If the vehicle uses H70, the hydrogen first passes through a boost compressor to increase the pressure from 5,000 psi to 10,000 psi. When the tank is full, the dispenser stops. Filling a tank with hydrogen takes about the same amount of time as filling a gasoline tank.

So, what made us decided to actively participate in the hydrogen fuel cells? Well there are a few reasons:

• Our involvement will enable us to cut our fuel costs by as much as fifty percent in the years ahead.
• Our involvement reinforces our position as trailblazers in the use of green technology to fuel public transit that is zero emission vehicles and emits only water from the tail pipe.
• Our involvement with the project will drive investment, research, business development and job creation here in Stark County and across our state.
• Furthermore, the FTA states that for every fuel cell-powered bus put into service in the U.S. it could reduce the carbon released into the atmosphere by 100 tons annually and eliminate the need for 9,000 gallons of fuel every year over the life of the vehicle! The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that for buses running on diesel fuel, the savings is more than $37,000 per year, per vehicle.

“The fact is, that the nation and the world continue to search for clean alternatives to fossil fuels,” Conrad stated. “We want to be at the forefront of commercializing this technology because transit systems, businesses and private citizens will begin to utilize fuel cell-powered vehicles featuring components and technology developed and manufactured in Stark County and Ohio. Hydrogen is a practical, safe, cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional fuel. We believe our innovative program will make Stark County and Ohio the focal point of what will undoubtedly be a growing and dynamic industry.”

In early 2017, Penn State and Ohio State will complete their testing and return the buses to us. We will then put them into service here in Stark County. The remaining eight buses will begin to arrive the beginning of 2017 with the last bus being delivered in late 2018. When all ten vehicles join our fleet, SARTA will become the third largest operator of Hydrogen Fuel Cell buses in the United States and the largest outside California.
SARTA Zero-Emission Technology

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