Coachella Valley CA-based SunLine Transit Agency launched the first hybrid fuel cell bus to be put into revenue service in California at a ribbon-cutting inauguration October 31. Among celebrants attending this event was Rep Mary Bono (R-CA), who drove the ThunderPower LLC bus, and is a longtime proponent of advanced alternative fuel technologies.
ThunderPower is a joint venture between Thor Industries, based in Chino CA, and San Diego CA-based ISE Research. Instead of an engine, the bus uses a fuel cell that runs on hydrogen from renewable sources (such as wind or solar power) and air to produce electricity to power the 30-foot bus. The only emissions produced are water and air.
Electricity produced by the fuel cell is routed to electric motors that turn the wheels via the differential. The bus also achieves 7 to 11 miles per gallon — double the mileage of a conventional bus.
The battery packs store electrical energy until needed to propel the bus. These packs also absorb energy from braking the bus. This regenerative braking technology uses the motors to generate electricity as the bus is braking and stores that electricity in the battery packs until needed to accelerate. This process increases operating efficiency by 20% to 30%.
Other financing and technology partners in the project include the United States Department of Transportation, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, CalStart, South Coast Air Quality Management District, El Dorado National, UTC Fuel Cells, Siemens, QUANTUM Technologies, and SunLine Transit Agency.
ThunderPower is expected to be in passenger service through spring 2003.