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| 10/01/15

Vancouver fuel cells to power buses, trams in China


Fuel-cell technology developed by a Vancouver company will soon be powering buses and trams in China, following the signing of two agreements in the past week.

Ballard Power Systems has agreed to deliver 10 fuel-cell modules to the rolling stock manufacturer, CRRC Qingdao Sifang, which will each deliver 200 kilowatts of net power. The company has designed a fuel-cell engine specifically designed for low-floor trams. Low-floor trams have no steps at the door, improving the accessibility of the vehicle for disabled passengers.

Ballard and CRRC Sifang announced the $6-million deal on Monday, following a successful demonstration of the technology at the company’s headquarters in March this year. An initial deployment of eight fuel cell-powered trams is expected in 2017 in the Chinese city of Foshan, whose current population is over seven million.

CRRC Sifang—established in 1900—has a production capacity of 200 electric multiple-unit trains, 1,000 mass transit vehicles, and 300 passenger cars per year.

The announcement comes days after the two companies signed a $17-million deal that will see Ballard provide modules for 300 fuel cell-powered buses to be deployed in the cities of Foshan and Yunfu. Ballard also inked a $10-million deal in June to provide modules for use in 33 fuel cell-powered buses in the Chinese cities of Yunfu and Rugao.

The raft of agreements represents something of a turn-around for Ballard, after an ill-fated foray into fuel-cell power in Whistler, BC. Ahead of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Whistler purchased 20 fuel cell-powered buses to showcase the clean technology to the world. But the buses ended up costing three times as much to fuel and maintain as diesel-powered buses, and were plagued by a reputation for breaking down in cold weather.

In March 2014, the buses were scrapped and replaced by conventional diesel models.

But Ballard says its newest modules are more efficient and durable, and that the cost of its modules has declined by 65 per cent over the last six years.

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