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OCTA Debuts Nation’s Largest Hydrogen Fueling Station and 10 Zero-Emission Fuel Cell Electric Buses

The $22.9 million project, with support from California Climate Investments, highlights OCTA’s commitment to clean and reliable technology

ORANGE – The Orange County Transportation Authority today joined with local, state and federal officials to mark the debut of the largest transit-operated hydrogen fueling station in the nation and 10 new hydrogen fuel cell electric buses.

The event highlighted OCTA’s continuing efforts to use zero-emission transportation technology for a balanced and sustainable transit future.

OCTA is also in the process of purchasing 10 plug-in battery electric buses, which are expected to be in operation beginning in 2021.

“We are very happy to be leading the way toward a cleaner and greener future that keeps the residents of Orange County moving, while keeping the air they breathe healthy with zero emissions,” said OCTA Chairman Steve Jones, also the Mayor of Garden Grove.

The new hydrogen fueling station was unveiled at OCTA’s Santa Ana Bus Base. OCTA officials were joined at today’s event by representatives from the partners in the project, including the California Air Resources Board (CARB), South Coast Air Quality Management District and Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE).

“We are proud to be working with all of our partners to set a strong example as a large urban transit operator making a positive impact on the environment,” said OCTA CEO Darrell E. Johnson. “We will continue to explore the use of zero-emission technology to ensure we deliver a balanced and sustainable transportation system for Orange County’s future.”

OCTA’s hydrogen fueling station is the largest in the nation for public transportation. Along with the 10 fuel-cell electric buses, it represents a $22.9 million investment in zero-emission transit.

More than half of that funding – $12.5 million – comes from California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment – particularly in disadvantaged communities.

The hydrogen-fueled buses will be strategically integrated into the OC Bus fleet to operate in communities that serve disadvantaged populations. The funding is the largest single grant to date from the California Air Resources Board to a transit agency.

“California’s transit agencies are leading the revolution to zero-emission transportation by taking action to replace their fossil-fuel powered buses with the very cleanest models available,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “The Orange County Transportation Authority is among the state’s and the nation’s leaders in this crucial effort. This project will accelerate the commercialization of hydrogen fuel cell powered buses. It also showcases today’s hydrogen fueling facility to keep those zero-emission buses powered up and clearing the air.”

OCTA’s project aligns with California’s Innovative Clean Transit Rule, a first-of-its kind regulation in the U.S. that sets a goal for public transit agencies to gradually transition to 100 percent zero-emission bus fleets by 2040. The Clean Transit Rule is part of the state’s comprehensive program helping to achieve California’s air quality and climate goals.

Fuel cell electric buses are powered by hydrogen, stored as a gas on the vehicle. A chemical reaction – not combustion – within the fuel cell splits apart the hydrogen molecule, freeing up electrons that power the drive motor and electric accessories on the bus. The used hydrogen reunites with oxygen from the air to form purified water and heat. The excess heat is recycled to the bus to warm passengers when needed, and the water is exhausted through the tailpipe.

Other funding for the fuel cell buses comes from SB1 State of Good Repair funds, administered by Caltrans, and from the South Coast AQMD Clean Fuels Fund.

The project is also a partnership with Air Products, which designed and provided enabling equipment for the hydrogen fueling station and will provide maintenance and hydrogen fuel. Trillium was contracted for construction, operations and maintenance of the fueling station, and New Flyer provided the buses. Ballard worked on the hydrogen fuel cell electric technology on the buses. And Fiedler Group engineered upgrades to maintenance facilities to safely service hydrogen-fueled buses.

CTE, a nonprofit transportation consulting firm specializing in the development of zero-emission solutions for public transit, organized and led the team to successfully win a grant from the California Air Resources Board to launch this project.

The hydrogen fuel cell buses have a range of up to 300 miles. The hydrogen fueling station requires shipments of liquid hydrogen to power the 10 buses.

OCTA was the first large public transportation agency in Southern California to operate a hydrogen fuel cell electric bus, debuting a pilot program in 2016.

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