United States Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx will be on hand this week when UAB and MAX unveil a state-of-the-art hydrogen fuel cell bus. The innovative and environmentally friendly bus, which will operate on MAX's downtown routes, is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell and produces no tailpipe emissions.
With only a few such buses operating in the world, Birmingham will be home to the only hydrogen fuel cell bus and fueling station in the Southeast. The results of this demonstration will be used to guide designs and deployments of future fuel-cell bus fleets and ultimately automobile applications.
Foxx is scheduled to board the bus on Wednesday, April 16, to tour several Birmingham landmarks. He will speak briefly at the MAX intermodal site at 2 p.m. The intermodal site is located on Morris Avenue between 16th Street and 19th Street.
"Hydrogen fuel cells are currently being explored to power vehicles of the future," says Fouad H. Fouad, Ph.D., principal investigator and chair of the UAB Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering. "They produce no harmful emissions and offer significant improvements in range over battery powered vehicles."
Combining hydrogen from storage tanks and oxygen from the air, a fuel cell produces electricity that powers all onboard systems, with the only byproduct being a trickle of water vented at the rear of the bus. The bus will operate on MAX routes for 18 months to test the performance and reliability of the fuel-cell system under a variety of operating conditions.
The new bus is the culmination of years of research and development. Funding was provided by the Federal Transit Administration through an initial $2-million grant to the UAB Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, initiated by Senator Richard Shelby. The program, led by UAB, is a collaboration among several partners, including MAX, the Center for Transportation and the Environment, Embedded Power Controls, and EVAmerica. The bus is unique in that it was designed and built entirely by partners based in the Southeast.
The UAB bus uses a 75kW hydrogen fuel cell and advanced lithium-titanate batteries to drive an electric motor and power all onboard systems. Onboard fuel tanks can store enough hydrogen for the bus to operate for a full 8-hour shift without refueling. In fact, the goal of the team was to design a bus that could operate on the same routes as and have an operating range similar to MAX's conventional buses.