A Follow-Up Visit to Chicago Transit
Karen Miller, Program Director, National Hydrogen Association
In December 1997, NHA staff paid a visit to
the Chicago [Illinois, U.S.A.] Transit Authority (CTA), where a hydrogen bus
project was being implemented [see previous stories: Winter 1998 and Autumn 1997].
The coordinated efforts of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA),
Ballard Power Systems, and Air Products and Chemicals had successfully
brought three hydrogen-powered buses for revenue service to the
United States. On Friday, 6 August 1999, staff took the opportunity
afforded by a Chicago Fuel Cell Conference [see related story] to pay CTA a follow-up visit.
Yazeed Khayyat, manager of alternative fuels
and environmental technology, and Rabbi Farraj, alternative fuels project
coordinator at CTA, met Bob Mauro and me at the CTA garage in Chicago to
give us a tour of the facilities. We were fortunate enough to have arrived
during the refueling of one of the hydrogen buses. It was quite a sight!
The National Clean Cities Program had painted the bus in a bright floral
design for Earth Day celebrations in Chicago. We watched and talked as the
Air Products and Chemicals liquid hydrogen refueling station filled the
Ballard hydrogen bus in about 25 minutes. Once the bus was hooked up
properly, it was a hands-free procedure. Once refueling was complete, the
bus operator climbed in and began his typical morning route through the
streets of Chicago.
In December, 1997, CTA was very excited about
this project. Now, 20 months later, how do they feel? We would love to
get more hydrogen buses, says Khayyat. Support at CTA and in the community
has not waned. If anything, experience with the buses has built confidence
for this once unfamiliar technology.
Thats terrific! I said. But what about
safety concerns? Now that you have been working with the bus for awhile,
is there anything you have learned that you can share with the hydrogen
community, any difficulties that you had not anticipated?
Khayyat remarked that the CTA/Ballard/Air
Products team had done a terrific job at putting this project together
as a demonstration. But to replicate it across the country, standards
would be needed. He emphasized the need for standards for designing and
building hydrogen facilities. Standards are also required for designing
and building buses or vehicles.
And while there has not been one safety
incident with the hydrogen bus, the hydrogen sensors in the maintenance
garage have caused some trouble, according to Farraj.
They go off all the time, he says. We
experience false positive indications approximately once every two weeks.
The sensor will then be useless until it is reset manually.
These sensors are designed to indicate the
presence of escaped hydrogen, and are strategically located along the
walls and ceiling of the maintenance garage.
We believe the exhaust from the other buses
are tripping the sensors, says Khayyat. This is indicative of the need
for more reliable sensors which adhere to standards developed and adopted
by the hydrogen industry.
Bob and I then discussed the safety codes
and standards activities at the NHA, and asked if CTA would be willing
to help validate the applicable draft standards developed. They
Many thanks to CTA personnel for an
interesting visit. Special thanks to Yazeed Khayyat for taking time on
his day off to meet with us.
©1999. All Rights Reserved. A Publication of
the National Hydrogen Association.
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