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Night shot of Tokyo, Japan

Starting last week, the bustling city of Tokyo, Japan was graced with the addition of fuel-cell powered buses running a regular service along one of the city's main thoroughfares. The eco-friendly people haulers run on two separate routes, both servicing different sections of Tokyo's Metropolitan Expressway. The routes span a stretch of highway between the Haneda airport and the Tokyo City Air Terminal. To accommodate the arrival of the H2 buses, the city of Tokyo installed two hydrogen fueling stations.

The project is part of Tokyo's shift to get alternative fuel sources moving more vehicles on the city's roads. The government hopes that this demonstration project will lead to further adoption of fuel-cell vehicles and create a society that relies heavily on hydrogen as a major power source, thereby reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions. Hat tip to Roy!

[Source: Japan Today | Image: 4 Colour Progress – C.C. License 2.0]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      "Of course, if the gasification of coal bed methane or the exploitation of methane hydrates prove practicable this shortage of carbon sources may not occur."

      "A database just released by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) documents the worldwide growth of gasification, the expected technology of choice for future coal-based plants that produce power, fuels, and/or chemicals with near-zero emissions.

      The 2010 Worldwide Gasification Database, a comprehensive collection of gasification plant data, describes the current world gasification industry and identifies near-term planned capacity additions. The database reveals that the worldwide gasification capacity has continued to grow for the past several decades and is now at 70,817 megawatts thermal (MWth) of syngas output at 144 operating plants with a total of 412 gasifiers."

      You may ask, what is syngas? Well, it's hydrogen, which is why so many global government organizations are promoting hydrogen fuel cells.



      "Future concepts that incorporate a fuel cell or a fuel cell-gas turbine hybrid could achieve efficiencies nearly twice today's typical coal combustion plants. If any of the remaining heat can be channeled into process steam or heat, perhaps for nearby factories or district heating plants, the overall fuel use efficiency of future gasification plants could reach 70 to 80 percent."

        • 4 Years Ago
        In Japan, Germany and Australia they are building fuel cells for smaller units, hoping to make them for individual homes eventually.
        This would mean that the process heat could provide hot water as you were producing your electricity.
        The idea of using most 'renewables' relies on the burning of vast amounts of fossil fuels, mainly gas, to make up for it's intermittency and unreliability, and what is more burning them inefficiently as they would operate at the behest of the wind and solar plants.
        So greater fuel savings are possible without littering the landscape with wind turbines, or going to the vast expense of solar outside of the most favourable areas.
      • 4 Years Ago
      If there was a case for HFC vehicles it's buses. They do not suffer from the infrastructure problem that ordinary drivers would experience. They drive a fixed route and go to a common yard for nighttime storage. A single central fueling station could service the entire fleet. Also buses are to big for battery electric drive. Batteries that would last all day would be so heavy there wont be much room for passengers. One solution is swapping in a smaller battery at each end of the run but this can get expensive, many more packs than buses. The benefit of rapid refueling would be more practical than swappable batteries. The only problems to overcome are cost and longevity. Fuel cell stacks are not cheap and this large of a vehicle would need a big one. Plus they only last 30,000 miles before contaminants render them unusable.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Thanks for the info on sodium sulphur batteries in buses, guys.

        On balance I feel that lithium titanate might still be a better bet. This is because of it's very fast recharge capabilities, although the sodium sulphur one is pretty good too.
        The 10 minute recharge capability of the lithium titanate together with it's excellent cycle life means that you have to pay for a lot smaller battery, although of course you have to pay for the charging points on the routes.
        It boils down to total cost, of course, and if the sodium battery is cheap enough the reasoning will not apply.

        There would seem to be a place for lithium titanate, with sodium sulphur on longer routes where for one reason or another charge points are less convenient to install, and of course fuel cells where still longer range is required.

        Incidentally the link I have earlier provided to the latest Hyundai fuel cells reckons that they are good for 73 mpg (US), so concerns about the inefficiencies of producing hydrogen from natural gas are fairly thoroughly addressed, as even if that is on the less strict European cycle I can't see other SUVs hitting that sort of mileage, even on diesel.
        Additionally in the US native natural gas would be used, instead of imported oil.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Here is the Proterra link - I didn't want my comment to get treated as spam!
        • 4 Years Ago
        @why not the LS2LS7?
        You are right, and the sodium sulfur batteries have been in use for electric buses for quite a while:

        For the short routes most buses take, density really isn't an issue.
        • 4 Years Ago
        'Plus they only last 30,000 miles before contaminants render them unusable.'

        Pretty old information. Hyundai have got up to around 120,000 miles, and 150,000 is in sight:

        GM is also up around 120,000 miles:

        For many routes with buses I am keen on the Proterra system, which uses lithium titanate batteries which can accept fast charge in 10 minutes.
        For longer routes hydrogen fuel cells are likely a better bet though.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I would think sodium sulfur was the way to go for buses. They are large enough to carry them and since they are constantly moving, the heating requirements don't amount to much of an impact in terms of wasted energy.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This is a good use of fuel cell technology. Buses need energy density. They refuel at a centralized location. Since they are deep in in the city, it is nice to have them emission-free.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Ack . . . Randy beat me to every point and said it better.
      • 4 Years Ago
      well for all the problems with HFC, short range buses might actually be one of the few applications that could work well. fixed route, always coming back to the same refueling station, doesn't need exotic pressures. if run on green electricity it's ok in my book. and if the cells last and don't die because they have to breathe the dust from the ICE cars.

      not that buses have any particular merit for daily transportation though :)
      I'd much prefer tiny robotic taxis you hail and don't pay too much for.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Without going to Tokyo, you can already use regular hydrogen buses in the Bay Area.
        • 4 Years Ago
        London's added FC buses to their fleet as well:

        "Under plans set out by the industry and government run by London Hydrogen Partnership earlier this year, London will run a 'hydrogen network' by 2012 to boost the technology.

        The group is working with London boroughs and private landowners to deliver six refuelling sites to run hydrogen-powered vehicles in the capital over the next two years.
        It also wants to see at least 150 hydrogen-powered vehicles on the road in London by 2012, including 15 hydrogen powered taxis."

      • 4 Years Ago
      If there is a case for HFC it's government! City, county, federal, it's all the same. They are using someone else's money (the taxpayers) to pay for this ridiculously inefficient and costly form of transportation. The payoff is the oil companies and the government can have complete control. The big lie is it's green!
        • 4 Years Ago
        ??? What has CO2 got to do with the health effects of pollution?
        What is being referred to here is the nitrous oxides, particles and so on.
        The data for the health effects are solid, and based on extensive medical data.
        Of course, cars, buses, trucks etc are not the only source of pollution - shipping for instance is a particularly bad one, as they use very low grade, high sulphur fuel, and death rates in port areas etc reflect this.
        There is no doubt at all that using electricity and hydrogen for transport would greatly reduce mortality.
        To get a rough appreciation of the figures, for the 8 million Londoners if excess mortality was reduced by one year per person then 8 million man-years would be saved.
        At a notional $10k per man year that is $80 billion.
        Clearly on pure cost grounds there is a strong case to be made for hydrogen and electric transport within cities, which defrays some of the extra cost of the buses themselves.
        In addition European health systems such as the NHS in Britain directly defray the cost of treatment for pollution induced illness, so reducing that would aid Government budgets.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Is pollution bad? Yea. I, however am not convinced that CO2 is the culprit. Other exhaust components can be controlled. Global warming is generally conceded, but the causes and future projections are disputed. I am not convinced CO2 is the culprit there either. I realize most Europeans are in lockstep on this, but I think the case is weak. The good old sun makes a much more realistic culprit. Variations in solar radiation are by far the most important determinants of climate. Atmospheric CO2 rises as the heated oceans give up their dissolved CO2. Even distinguished scientists disagree with each other on this. The easiest way to make a fool out of yourself is to start making future predicts when the cyclical nature of solar radiation isn't well understood. If you are worried about global warming, I suggest you start building higher sea walls.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Limited mentality like yours is astounding. You have no issues pissing away billions on weaponry yet you have a problem funding clean, new technology in PUBLIC TRANSPORT.

        Get a clue.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I've just done some (very) rough calculations of the extra premium we should, purely financially, be prepared to pay for lower pollution buses.
        The London bus fleet is around 8,000 vehicles, one per 1,000 people.
        If we save a year's life for each of them, and evaluate each life saved and medical costs saved at $10k, then that is worth about $10 million per vehicle.
        Of course though, a person lasts around 80 years, and a fuel cell stack perhaps 10, so for the individual bus you might be sensible to pay a premium of $1 million.
        Since it seems that packs will be available for around $60k or so, and you save on maintenance costs etc as well as fuel costs, then it seems that they are a bargain, and well worth some subsidy.
        Of course, you may not save a year's worth of life for the people just be swapping to cleaner buses, but OTOH I have used a very low figure for the cost of a year's loss of life and medical bills, so something of that order sounds reasonable.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The costs of petrol and diesel are only as low as they are because their costs are externalised:
        'Air pollution is bad for our health. It reduces human life expectancy by more than eight months on average and by more than two years in the most polluted cities and regions.'


        The cost however is real, for all that it does not show at the pumps. For major cities any remaining cost differential after taking into account fuel savings can likely be offset against the health costs, in London's case quite explicitly due to fines from the EU if it does not meet pollution targets.
        In all major European cities buses and taxis together contribute much of the pollution, so moving them and delivery vans on to cleaner energy sources will greatly improve health and reduce medical costs.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Harlanx6 - you're starting to go off the rails.

        Marine and Air-transport caused pollution has been identified and is being worked on, and fuel cells are very applicable and useful in both situations. You don't frequently read about it here on ABG, because this is generally and auto-centric site.

        David Martin is right about the biggest benefit of these FC buses is a reduction of all tailpipe pollution (save water vapor), but there is all a great reduction in noise pollution, which I can attest is a major issue with urban buses.

        Likewise, you're free to opine that CO2 is not a serious concern; however, that is not the view of the EPA in the US, or of many major regulatory agencies which are making reductions of carbon emissions a primary objective.

        The EPA considers CO2 to be a pollutant, so whether you agree with that or not, it is an issue the automakers must deal with.

        "GHGs are the primary driver of climate change, which can lead to hotter, longer heat waves that threaten the health of the sick, poor or elderly; increases in ground-level ozone pollution linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses; as well as other threats to the health and welfare of Americans."

        • 4 Years Ago
        That makes sense. Part of my point was CO2 isn't really a pollutant, and other components can and should be controlled. Also only governments and the wealthy can afford H2 tech. I also agree that shipping is a huge polluter, as are air liners, but you never hear about them. I wonder why? Why is it politically incorrect to attack these major sources of pollution?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Oddly enough I found the case for CO2 causing GW more convincing AFTER the e-mail leaks.
        For in some cases the first time a truly critical eye was cast on the data, and the argument remained essentially intact.

        Secondly, although correlation is not proof of causation, I found this very persuasive:
        'An analysis has been completed of the global carbon cycle and climate for a 70,000 year period in the most recent Ice Age, showing a remarkable correlation between carbon dioxide levels and surprisingly abrupt changes in climate.'


        However I think there is a weakness in the case for some of the more extreme climatic scenarios, not in the physics, but simply because the projections are based on the neo-classical view that fossil fuels will be available, with demand evoking supply in a very mechanistic way.
        The work of Routledge and others indicate that this may be very far from the case, and that 'peak coal' is fairly imminent.
        Of course, if the gasification of coal bed methane or the exploitation of methane hydrates prove practicable this shortage of carbon sources may not occur.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "Global warming is generally conceded, but the causes and future projections are disputed."
        Mainly by lobbyists and political hacks who don't like the scientific consensus. The American Academy of Science's last review this year concluded it is simply "settled facts" that the most probable cause of the warming we've observed is human factors, http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12782&page=22

        "I am not convinced CO2 is the culprit there either. I realize most Europeans are in lockstep on this, ..."
        You mean dozens of scientific bodies and all national academies of science besides the USA one I linked to above.

        "... but I think the case is weak."
        No it's not. The greenhouse effect is basic high school physics, it can ONLY warm the earth. And all the idiots saying "CO2 at parts per million can't produce warming" are flatly contradicted by the physics of radiative forcing. Go read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_sensitivity The varying estimates are because the earth isn't a solid ball with an immobile atmosphere, so it's HARD to figure out where the heat goes, what other effects are triggered, and thus how long it takes to increase atmospheric temps. But the case is ridiculously strong, and you're lying to state otherwise.

        "The good old sun makes a much more realistic culprit. Variations in solar radiation are by far the most important determinants of climate."

        Well, duh! It is so ridiculous when doubters proudly tell us stuff that climate scientists ALREADY KNOW in *far greater detail*. The earth is heated by the sun, and the pre-industrial greenhouse gas concentrations are why the earth is a lot warmer than the moon. However, even the scientists who believe the sun is underrepresented in climate models state point-blank that it CANNOT explain the warming in industrial times, go read http://www.mpg.de/english/illustrationsDocumentation/documentation/pressReleases/2004/pressRelease20040802/ . And solar variation runs on an 11 year cycle, yet the warming since 1960 is continuing, undeniable, and DOES NOT correspond to the solar cycle (go read that summary)! So everyone saying "It's the sun, stupid" is offering a non-explanation.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Here is some info on progress in pollution reduction in shipping:

        Personally I would like to see nuclear power in large container ships, which would eliminate the problem.
        Of course, anti nuclear nuts would prefer to continue with the present situation, causing tens of thousands of proven deaths per year, rather than taking the purely theoretical risks of nuclear, which has powered hundreds of navy ships for many years quite safely.

        I would disagree about CO2 - the evidence that it causes global warming seems sound to me, but I would never refer to it as a pollutant, as it does no harm at all to the local environment whatever it's climatic effects.

        The great thing about fuel cells, like batteries, is that it is modular and progress is absolute.
        So if you develop fuel cells for one purpose, at least the PEM ones used in cars and buses rather than the high temperature ones, you can simply reconfigure them for another purpose.
        Here is the latest from Hyundai:

        Their target is around $50k for an SUV by 2015.
        Now that is pretty high for an SUV, but works perfectly for a bus.
        Since this sports a 100kw power pack, you would only need a couple of them to power a bus.
        So we are looking at around $60 or so for the fuel stack, perfectly acceptable for a bus, and far from a rich man's toy.

        you will rarely persuade others to your view if you abuse them, no matter how much you disagree with them.
        Harlan is being perfectly civil, so perhaps you would be equally courteous.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It's good to see more and more fuel cell buses getting deployed.

      President Obama's administration endorses FC buses here in the US - CALTRAN just got a nice chunk of funding:

      "The Obama Administration is proud to partner with researchers who are exploring greener, more efficient ways to power buses," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Adapting fuel-cell technology to buses will result in a cleaner environment and quieter streets for everyone." Fuel cell buses improve urban air quality because they produce zero tailpipe emissions while also producing far fewer greenhouse gas pollutants."

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