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Fuel-cell bus joins fleet

City purchases a zero-emissions vehicle that will cost less to operate than conventional buses.

August 18, 2007|By Jeremy Oberstein

CITY HALL — The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the purchase of a hydrogen hybrid fuel-cell transit bus, expanding upon the city’s efforts to move toward a more environmentally friendly infrastructure.

The energy-friendly bus will further Burbank’s green credentials, officials said.

“This is another step in creating a more sustainable infrastructure in our fleets,” Mayor Marsha Ramos said. “This is another step in creating transportation improvements [that] enhance our alternative fuel portfolio.”

The purchase also fits into efforts to transform the area’s landscape, she said.

“This bus is one component to achieve [environmental] sustainability in our city,” Ramos said. “We are greening our city by planting more trees, improving our energy- and water-conservation efforts, and creating mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly developments.”

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The zero-emission transit bus, which will be ready for use by summer 2008, will triple the mileage per gallon of commercial buses, according to a city staff report.

Typical commercial buses average 3 to 4 miles per gallon, according to the report. The hydrogen bus will cover at least 10 miles per kilogram of hydrogen, its gas gallon equivalent.

Mobile Energy Solution, which has developed the bus, specializes in ultra-low emission, commercial, hybrid-electric, battery-powered and fuel-cell vehicles and will be responsible for the design of the new bus, as well as its maintenance and training.

The hydrogen bus is 35 feet long, and will be able to carry the same number of passengers as a conventional 40 foot bus. Additionally, its 12-year battery life is comparable to other commercial buses.

The estimated project cost of the bus is $2 million, of which $1.4 million is funded through the Alternative Fuel Incentive Program. The remaining $615,982 will be shared by a public-private partnership. The city will be responsible for $139,000 of that portion and will own and operate the vehicle, the report said.

The bus should be cheaper to maintain than the city’s regular fleet. Mobile Energy Solution estimates that commercial vehicles cost 69 cents per mile while the hybrid bus will cost 42 cents per mile to operate.

“The vehicle will not require an engine oil change, and the parts cost less money,” said Dale Hill, chief executive officer of Mobile Energy Solutions.

The fuel-cell bus is not the first of its kind, but may be the most unique, Hill said.

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