With the objective of developing a cleaner solution for urban public transportation in Brazil, the Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy and the Metropolitan Company of Urban Transport of São Paulo (EMTU) launched the project "Energetic-Environmental Strategy: Hydrogen Cell Powered Bus."
The initiative is a partnership with the United Nations Development Program (PNUD), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Projects Funding Body (FINEP). The project was officially launched on Tuesday, November 14, in São Bernardo do Campo, in the Greater São Paulo, in southeastern Brazil.
The first bus powered by a hydrogen cell will be 12 meters long, with three doors, capacity for 90 passengers, and will have air conditioning and low floor for greater passenger comfort and safety. The bus will have hybrid electric traction – cell plus battery – and autonomy for 300 kilometers.
The project, with US$ 16 million worth of investment, consists of the purchase, operation and maintenance of up to five vehicles and a station for hydrogen production and fuel supply for the buses, which will be used on the São Mateus/Jabaquara line in São Paulo, for four years. The buses will start running in and experimental phase next year.
"The Metropolitan Area of São Paulo concentrates the world’s largest bus fleet, with great impact on the environment, and this was crucial for the choice of Brazil by PNUD/GEF as the center for development of clean passenger transportation technologies," said Márcio Schettino, Development Manager at EMTU, who said that the São Paulo fleet is estimated to include 30,000 buses.
"Imagine a city without car and bus noise, with fresh air and an improvement of living conditions for all the population. These are the direct benefits that hydrogen powered vehicles can offer the society, because they use extremely clean fuel, which may be obtained from many renewable sources, such as solar energy, wind energy, hydroelectric energy and biomass (ethanol)," he said.
According to Schettino, the equipment for hydrogen production will be installed in the garage of the Metra Concession holder, in the city of São Bernardo do Campo, with technical support from Petrobras.
The hydrogen will be produced by means of water electrolysis to separate oxygen and hydrogen molecules. The former is going to be released into the atmosphere, and the hydrogen is going to be compacted in order to supply fuel to the bus. This fuel is totally clean, because it releases water vapor.
Electrolysis was the technique chosen for obtaining hydrogen because it is a clean process, a well-known technology that is commercially available.
Another relevant factor for the choice of electrolysis was the fact that Brazil has a great capacity for generating electric energy by means of hydroelectric plants, which account for 92% of all Brazilian electricity.
The project features the participation of a consortium made up of eight companies: AES Eletropaulo, Baallard Power Systems, EPRI International, Hydrogenics, Marcopolo, Nucellsys, Petrobras and Tuttotrasporti, worldwide leading companies in their segments.
"An important aspect of this project is to make the hydrogen fuel cell accessible for large-scale production and consumption, therefore the Brazilian project will have singular, pioneering technical features," says Mônica Saraiva Panik, project manager for the consortium.
Experiments with hydrogen-powered vehicles are being carried out worldwide. The great advantage of the Brazilian project is the use of fuel cells applied to automobiles – which are in an advanced development stage, and are currently quite compact and light, along with a bank of batteries, thus making the vehicle hybrid (cell/battery).
This system enables a reduction in hydrogen consumption by making use of energy used for braking the bus. Expected average hydrogen consumption is 14 kilograms of hydrogen for every 100 kilometers. "One of our goals is to make the hydrogen powered bus into a commercially competitive vehicle compared with the diesel fuelled ones," claims Schettino.
In diesel fuelled buses, energy efficiency is 30%, which means that, for every three liters of fuel, only one is effectively applied into vehicle traction. In the hydrogen bus, on the other hand, efficiency is 50%, with zero pollutant emission.