Appraising hydrogen buses: It’s more than kicking tires

Hydrogen bus from Strathcona County
Image credit: Strathcona County

We’ve started assessing hydrogen fuel technology as part of our journey to assemble a low- or zero-emission bus fleet that delivers reliable, efficient service.

We’ve received fund approval from the provincial and federal governments for hydrogen bus strategy development and fleet integration studies, including the Hydrogen Fueling and Pilot Fleet Feasibility Study.

We’re also part of the Alberta Zero Emission Hydrogen Transit project. In collaboration with the City of Edmonton and Strathcona County, we’ll participate in a hydrogen bus pilot to gather crucial data on bus performance. We expect the pilot will kick off early 2025.

Our interest in fuel cell electric buses (FCEBs) stems from our diversified fleet strategy, which is guiding our fleet transition to low- or zero-emission buses in support of The City’s operational emission reduction goals. 

Our strategy aims to continue delivering consistent and reliable transit service while maximizing environmental benefits to reach net zero by 2050. It involves careful fuel technology assessment. We’ll only buy alternative fuel buses once we’ve seen proven performance in our climate. We’ll use alternative fuel buses in a way that makes the most of our operations, such as 40-foot battery electric buses (BEBs) on shorter routes and potentially hydrogen (and other fuel-type) buses on longer ones.

Like BEBs, FCEBs generate little or no emissions depending on how the hydrogen is sourced. Fuel cells improve the range of electric buses by generating onboard power from hydrogen to recharge the batteries.

FCEBs cover longer distances than BEBs prior to refueling, which makes them suitable for the lengthy blocks within our service. However, FCEBs and hydrogen fueling are emerging markets. Compared to the fast-growing BEB marketplace, there aren’t many FCEBs in production yet and few options for refueling them.

Our hydrogen fuel technology appraisal is foundational for future bus fleet decision-making and investments.