Read the news article in Marin IJ, May 8, 2013

Updated May 2, 2013


Since April 18, 2013, a new third-generation zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell bus has been providing service on select Marin Transit Local Routes and Golden Gate Transit (GGT) Routes. There is no change to schedules or fares for riding the zero emission bus.

Zero Emission Bay Area is comprised of five transit agencies: AC Transit, GGT, Santa Clara VTA, SamTrans, and Muni who collectively are using a fleet of 12 third-generation fuel cell zero-emission buses to provide service around the Bay Area, making the Bay Area home to the largest single fleet of fuel cell buses in the United States. Findings from placing the buses into service in various locations is being collected and analyzed by the US Department of Energy's Fuel Cell Technologies Program to help researchers to better understand the status of the technology.

Look for the zero emission bus on these Marin Local Routes operated by Golden Gate Transit:

  • Route 22 (serving San Rafael, San Anselmo, Strawberry, Marin City, and Sausalito)
  • Route 23 (serving San Rafael, San Anselmo, Fairfax, and Manor)
  • Route 29 (serving San Rafael, Larkspur Landing, Marin General, College of Marin, San Anselmo, and Manor)

And look for it on these Golden Gate Transit Routes:

  • Route 10 (serving Strawberry, Marin City, Sausalito, and San Francisco)
  • Route 40/42 (serving El Cerrito Del Norte BART, Richmond BART, San Quentin, and San Rafael)
  • Route 92 (serving Marin City, Sausalito, and San Francisco)

In November 2000, in accordance with CARB regulations, Golden Gate Transit (GGT) selected the Clean Diesel Fuel Path for the operation of its buses. As part of the clean diesel path, under CARB regulations, transit properties are required to participate in a Zero Emission Bus (ZEB) demonstration program. The CARB requirements were designed to accelerate development of zero emission fuel cell technology for integration into public transit bus fleets in California and across the country. Since 2003, as permitted under the CARB regulations, GGT has partnered with AC Transit on the development of a ZEB Program. GGT will not be converting its diesel fleet to ZEB technology, but will continue to take every step possible to reduce emissions and keep pace with state-of-the-art diesel technology.

In 2008, GGT operated an early-generation bus that was designed to accommodate a fuel cell powered electric engine within a transit bus normally powered by diesel fuel.

In 2013, GGT is operating the third-generation fuel cell bus which features improvements over the previous generations, including a redesigned chassis that is 5,000 pounds lighter and 3 inches shorter. Each bus is powered by a 120 kW fuel cell power system, built by UTC power of Connecticut, and an advanced lithium ion energy storage system by EnerDel of Indiana. Hydrogen tanks on the roof give the bus a range of 220 to 240 miles, and batteries recharged during braking can provide extra power for acceleration and climbing steep grades.

Fuel Cell Bus Facts
Bus chassis
Van Hool, A300L
40 ft/102 in./136 in.
Curb weight
31,400 lb
Passenger capacity
28 seated plus two wheelchair positions, or 32 seats without wheelchairs
Hybrid system
siemens hybrid-electric ELFA drive system integrated by Van Hool
Fuel cell
UTC Power, PureMotion 120 kW
Energy storage
EnerDel, lithium ion batteries, Rated energy: 17.4 kWh; Rated capacity: 29Ah
Gaseous hydrogen, 40 kg at 5,000 psi, 8 Dynetek type 3 tanks

What is hydrogen? Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe; over 90% of the universe is made of hydrogen. Here on earth, hydrogen combines easily with other elements. When hydrogen combines with oxygen, it makes water that covers 70% of our planet. Hydrogen promises a host of benefits. Since hydrogen does not occur on its own in nature, it must be produced by unlocking the molecular bonds in water or organic compounds, such as the methane in natural gas. Hydrogen can be produced from a wide variety of feed stocks and has the potential to help diversify the U.S. energy supply.

What is a fuel cell? How does it work? When hydrogen (H2) combines with oxygen (O), it produces water (H2O) and electricity. In a fuel cell, hydrogen protons pass through a membrane to combine with oxygen on the other side. The electrons from the hydrogen are not allowed to pass through the membrane and leave the cell in the form of enough electric current to power a bus.

The hybrid-drive system

What are the environmental benefits of hydrogen fuel cells? Fuel cells do not burn the fuel they use. Instead, they combine hydrogen with oxygen from the air to produce water and electricity. The only emission the fuel cell generates is water vapor. Using hydrogen instead of burning fossil fuels makes our air cleaner, diversifies our energy supply and potentially reduces global warming.

Why are we doing this? Hydrogen promises a host of benefits – from diversifying energy supply to improving the health of the environment. Putting ZEBs on the streets has a direct impact on air quality and the health of local residents. If fuel cell technology proves to be feasible and economical, hydrogen could become an important part of the world’s energy mix. Testing this technology with centralized fueling and a transit fleet application is the logical first step.

Why is hydrogen safe? Like any fuel, hydrogen requires proper handling and a safe system design for production, storage and usage. In general, hydrogen, if properly handled, is as safe as gasoline, diesel or natural gas and, in some instances, safer. For decades, hydrogen has been shipped and used safely in the U.S. for use in everything from welding to hydrogenated peanut butter. Over 70 million gallons of hydrogen are transported on the country’s highways every year without any major problems. Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe, and it’s also the lightest – even lighter than helium. So if there’s a leak in a hydrogen tank, it dissipates quickly into the air without polluting.


"Hydrogen is..." poster showing how hydrogen powers a fuel cell to generate electricity

National Renewable Energy Laboratory fact sheet
AC Transit Fuel Cell Bus Brochure