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SRTA submitted a grant application on January 16, 2020, in the amount of $25,601,423, for Phase 2.0, Prototype Fuel Cell Motorcoaches for the North State Intercity Bus System to partner with a manufacturer for the design, engineering, and building of of one or more prototype fuel cell motorcoaches, and for development of the related hydrogen fueling infrastructure and production in Redding and Sacramento. Once the fuel cell motorcoaches are in service, SRTA plans to utilize older zero-emission buses purchased with 2018 TIRCP funds for new, or improved, feeder route services connecting to the Interstate 5 corridor. Development of a fuel cell motorcoach would be a long-term solution to the range and power challenges of long-range intercity bus service, while also implementing state goals related to fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen fueling infrastructure.
The goal of this project is to build the first ever Fuel Cell Electric Coaches (FCEC), leading to their commercialization. Specific objectives include successfully demonstrating the capability to replace conventional coaches one for one, as reflected by vehicle in-service performance, fuel efficiency, and overall operational efficiencies associated with vehicle availability and fueling station operations. In 2018, SRTA was awarded over $8.6 million in TIRCP capital funding for a zero-emission intercity bus service (North State Intercity Bus System: Phase 1) between Redding and Sacramento, a distance of 175 miles with traveling speeds of 70 mph. Ideally, backbone buses need to travel at interstate speeds and reliably complete the 175-mile one-way trip: on a single charge or a single fueling in the case of hydrogen; under strenuous loads (max passenger load, HVAC); and over the expected life of the vehicle. Battery-Electric (BE) and Fuel Cell Electric (FCE) options are proving to be the two pathways toward achieving a zero-emission goal. Both technologies are needed, but Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles in the heavy-duty sector are demonstrating extended operating ranges at higher speeds, significant reductions in vehicle curb weight to carry more passengers and freight, and fast refueling times to quickly re-deploy vehicles in service.