Hydrogen-fueled bus makes its debut on OSU’s campus

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A unique alternative-fueled passenger bus made its debut on campus and a face familiar at The Ohio State University was first onboard.

Hydrogen-fueled with zero emissions, this regular-sized bus will ferry students around campus, and its only byproduct is water.

The media was invited along for a ride on the maiden voyage of the hydrogen-fueled bus.

“I think it a great technology and really important for the future. Happy to see it here and looking forward to taking a ride,” said OSU President Michael Drake.

He was the first one to hop on the hydrogen-fueled bus as it stopped in front of University Hall.

“So the nice thing about this bus here is you can almost drop it in you fleet and use it like your CNG buses,” said Kirt Conrad, with the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority, (SARTA), who are working in collaboration with the university.

The ride from this all-electric vehicle powered by hydrogen is responsive and quiet. An errant student hopped on during the tour and President Drake did not miss a beat promoting it to OSU Sophomore Brent Wallenhorst.

“This is a hybrid that uses hydrogen as its main energy source. It produces zero emissions, just a few drops of water,” President Drake said.

Hydrogen fuel has been around for a long time, and outside of space missions, NBC4’s Rick Reitzel asked why it hasn’t been mass produced for vehicles.

“It has taken awhile to get the economics and reliability to a point where it is ready for transportation applications, but it is ready,” said Jim Durand, with OSU’s Center for Automotive Research. He also leads a group called Renewable Hydrogen Cell Fuel Collaboration.

He said hydrogen can be produced several ways including from water, then it is purified and compressed to 5,000 PSI (pounds per square inch) and up.

Durand said this hydrogen bus can fuel quickly, unlike electric vehicles which can take substantially longer.

Conrad said Ohio is the third largest producer of hydrogen fuel cell technology in the nation, behind California and Connecticut.

As for fuel consumption and costs, Chris McWhinney with Millennium Reign Energy said hydrogen is 55 percent more efficient compared to diesel ‘tank to wheel.’

Conrad said CNG-fueled buses get around 3.8 mpg and hydrogen close to 9. Natural gas is considerably less expensive, but Conrad said hydrogen is comparably priced with diesel fuel.

As of now Conrad said a hydrogen bus costs around $1.2 million and a CNG-powered bus at $500,000 – $600,000.

“If we can decrease pollution as we are taking people around safely and effectively, that is a great thing,” said Drake.

The hydrogen bus can travel 170 – 200 miles between fill ups and will be on OSU’s campus for the next year.

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