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NREL's Hydrogen-Powered Bus Serves as Showcase for Advanced Vehicle Technologies

October 18, 2010

NREL started using its Ford hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine (H2ICE) bus in May 2010 as the primary shuttle vehicle for VIP visitors, members of the media, and new employees. The U.S. Department of Energy funded the lease for NREL’s H2ICE bus, along with 12 other buses at federal facilities across the country, to demonstrate market-ready advanced technology vehicles and showcase hydrogen’s role in our nation’s portfolio of sustainable transportation options.

How Do H2ICE Vehicles Work? 
Ford was one of the first automakers to develop commercially available H2ICEs, which use the same basic technology as gasoline-powered engines but run on hydrogen fuel. Only modest design adjustments are needed to switch a basic gasoline-powered engine to a hydrogen-powered engine, such as using alternate materials for valve seats and other parts that may become brittle when exposed to hydrogen. 

H2ICEs are highly fuel efficient—up to 25% more efficient than gasoline-fueled ICEs. H2ICEs also have the potential for near-zero emissions. Because the fuel contains no carbon, the engine doesn’t produce carbon dioxide or other carbon compounds.

Filling up at NREL’s Hydrogen Fueling Station
The bus fills up at NREL’s on-site hydrogen fueling station, which dispenses some of the greenest hydrogen in the world made using wind and solar energy. The hydrogen is produced via renewable electrolysis as part of the wind-to-hydrogen project, which uses wind turbines and photovoltaic arrays to power electrolyzer stacks that split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Soon after receiving the bus, NREL outfitted the station with cascading storage tanks, which decrease the time required for fueling. This is particularly beneficial for vehicles with large onboard storage systems, such as the H2ICE bus, which can take up to 30 kg of hydrogen in a single fueling.

Showcasing the Vehicle
NREL showcased the H2ICE bus at The Taste of Colorado in Denver, September 3-6, 2010. In addition to the H2ICE bus, the NREL booth featured an E85 fleet vehicle, hydrogen gas and natural gas dispensing nozzles, a 5-kW fuel cell, and a fuel-cell-powered fan.

The bus attracted a tremendous amount of attention—all told, more than 5,500 people visited the booth, and 93 media outlets featured the bus in print, online, or during television spots over the Labor Day weekend.

NREL plans to feature the H2ICE bus at future events, and will announce dates and locations on this Web site.

—Sara Havig