Perth fuel cell bus trial
In the search for alternative forms of transport energy, many governments and vehicle manufacturers have identified hydrogen as one of a range of likely future energy sources.
When used in fuel cells, hydrogen produces no pollutants with the only emissions being water and heat. In certain applications hydrogen has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to improve the security of supply of transport fuel, and to stabilise fuel prices.
In recognising the potential benefits of hydrogen, the State Government of Western Australian through the Department conducted a trial of three hydrogen fuel cell buses, known as EcoBuses.
The trial ran from September 2004 to September 2007 and was the flagship project for the Department's Sustainable Transport Energy for Perth (STEP) program. This was the first significant use of hydrogen as a transport fuel on public roads in Australia and to support the trial the Department established the only hydrogen supply and refuelling infrastructure in the southern hemisphere.
The purpose of the trial was to determine the critical technical, environmental, economic, and social factors that needed consideration in relation to the introduction of hydrogen as a sustainable transport fuel.
A global trial of hydrogen
The initial two-year EcoBus trial was run in collaboration with 'sister' trials in nine European cities plus Reykjavik and Beijing. The nine European cities participated in the Clean Urban Transport for Europe (CUTE) project while Reykjavik's trial in Iceland was part of their Ecological Cities Transport Systems (ECTOS) project. In order to maximise community and industry access to the Perth EcoBuses and refuelling infrastructure, the trial was extended for a further twelve months until September 2007. The third year extension was run in association with the European HyFLEET:CUTE program.
The EcoBus trial was a complex undertaking that required the co-operation of several key partners. Because of this, the standard regulatory process did not easily apply to the buses or the production and distribution of hydrogen. Working closely with key partners to identify and overcome these issues was a critical component of the trial.
The three EcoBuses performed beyond expectations and at the conclusion of the trial had travelled approximately 258,000km, consumed over 46 tonnes of hydrogen and carried over 320,000 passengers. 300 tonnes of tailpipe carbon emissions were avoided by not operating conventional diesel buses.
The EcoBus trial received a number of awards including the 2005 Banksia Award for Government Leading by Example, the 2004 Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport Outstanding Achievement Award and the 2004 Sustainable Transport Coalition Government Innovation Award.