The hydrogen fuel cells in the buses are built by Burnaby-based Ballard Power Systems. Eric Denhoff, president and CEO of the fuel cell association, said the sale was evidence that B.C. Transit management "doesn't like new technology."
It didn’t help that hydrogen to fuel the buses had to be trucked in from Quebec. Air Liquide had expressed interest in building a hydrogen fuel plant in North Vancouver, but the province's lack of interest in further investment in the hydrogen fleet nipped the project in the bud.
According to Ballard Power, the Whistler fleet cost $1.34 per kilometer to run, roughly double the 65 cents it costs to operate a diesel bus. However, Denhoff said the cells kept thousands of tons of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.
While B.C. Transit's move away from hydrogen is a blow to the domestic industry, transit fleets in Europe continue to shift routes to fuel cell buses.
In October, work began on a hydrogen refuelling station in Aberdeen—the first such station in the United Kingdom. According to the Aberdeen Press and Journal, it's part of Scotland's larger effort to "decarbonize" its road transportation sector by 2050.
An ongoing trial in Winnipeg might provide more insight into sustainable transit fleets in Western Canada. The Winnipeg Transit authority is currently testing four electric buses ahead of a decision on a larger shift away from diesel.
While the authority is investigating battery, LNG, overhead electric and hydrogen power systems, transit boss Dave Wardrop has expressed a preference for electric on several occasions.