Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

BC Transit offers Hydrogen Buses for sale

with 7 comments

BC Transit 1000

I saw this story on the CBC News last night so that’s where I am linking to. It gets picked up by the paywalled press too, of course, but what I think is interesting about this version is the commentary from Eric Denhoff President and CEO of the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association..

While these buses may have saved some greenhouse gas emissions, the admission that the hydrogen had to be trucked from Quebec offsets that a bit. Hydrogen is of course freely available everywhere: extracting it, packing and shipping it is, of course the expensive bit, and itself consumes lots of energy. And the trucks which drove back and forth across the continent were diesel powered. There is also a plant in North Van which vents hydrogen it produces as a byproduct which is not clean enough for the finicky fuel cells.

What annoys me about the web version of this story is that is misses the correct attribution of responsibility. The TV news had quite a bit about the decision by Gordon Campbell to buy these buses and have them run in Whistler during the Olympics. It also mentioned the complete failure of the “hydrogen highway” that he announced with Arnold Schwarzenegger that never materialized.

The Province always has money for these ribbon cutting, PR fluff type projects. Obviously just not enough money for Whistler’s transit system to keep running the things. There is never enough money to run transit in BC but every so often they go all loopy and buy a bunch of white elephants. Several different iterations of CNG buses wished on to Vancouver before they got one that actually worked reliably. Even though the emissions from diesel buses fitted with mandatory control equipment now equal the tailpipe performance of CNG. Not that there is much wrong with air quality in Vancouver.

It is also worth noting that the CBC web version mentions that there is a Plan B if BC Transit can’t find a buyer, which I would think is the most likely outcome.

NOTE This post has been corrected after correspondence from Eric Denhoff (April 28, 2015)

7 Responses

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  1. This comes just as Hyundai is offering hydrogen Tuscons for lease in this market.

    Marc Erickson

    December 5, 2014 at 10:08 am

  2. The “Hydrogen Highway” never really materialized, but there actually is an “electron highway” forming along the west coast to support electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. See:

    Sean Nelson

    December 5, 2014 at 11:18 am

  3. I have deleted the duplicate of this comment. And the network of electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid charging stations is much larger than just the west coast, largely thanks to the efforts of Elon Musk to sell Teslas without range anxiety.

    Stephen Rees

    December 5, 2014 at 11:28 am

  4. This is the Liberal version of the Fast Ferries….so let’s them eat crow spiced up with hydrogen..

    Red frog

    December 8, 2014 at 8:10 pm

  5. When Gordon Campbell first espoused the Hydrogen Highway I thought of two things.

    First, what was in the contents of his reading list, Buck Rogers comic books?

    Second, what would have his brother Michael said in one of his Fraser Institute approved anti-green Sun columns? There may have been some interesting discussions around the family backyard BBQ after the HH was announced, mostly on the waste of public money. That would have been the only Michael Campbell column I would have agreed on … if he wasn’t pressured to quit writing them when Gordon invited Mike’s object-of-ridicule Al Gore to give a presentation in Vancouver.


    December 9, 2014 at 12:41 pm

  6. From MIT’s Technology Review online/print publication:

    “Forget Hydrogen Cars, and Buy a Hybrid”

    “Hybrids are a much more cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions than newly released hydrogen fuel cell cars….The only thing that comes out of the [hydrogen] cars’ tailpipes is, indeed, water vapor, but the hydrogen they run on is [currently] mostly made from natural gas via a process that releases significant amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”


    December 15, 2014 at 12:26 pm

  7. The Hydrogen Highway, is, in fact, slowly emerging. The California energy commission has allocated $200 million US to jump start the rollout of hydrogen fuelling stations in CA, and by 2016 there will be 50 or 60. Canadian firms are building some of these, such as the one in Walnut Creek near San Francisco. Toyota and Hyundai are launching commercially available FCVs this year in California, Hyundai just announced their $599.00 a month (including hydrogen) FCV in Vancouver. The Chairman of Toyota was the chief designer of Prius, one of the most successful cars in Toyota history, and he has publicly stated on several occasions that Toyota strongly believes FCVs are the way of the future. Obviously, there is much debate to be had, and the sector on the auto front has moved more slowly than originally thought. But with Mercedes, GM, Volkswagen, BMW and others all with FCVs in development, be surprising if there isn’t a serious attempt at commercial roll out. Japan, Korea and Germany are all spending hundreds of millions annually on the sector. Already, material handling fuel cell forklifts are commercial, as are telecom backup power fuel cell units. It’s legitimate to debate whether FCVs will be a success in the short or medium term, but the battle is now on with other electric vehicles, and only the next three to five years will demonstrate the winner, if there is one.

    Eric Denhoff

    December 22, 2014 at 11:19 am

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