Building a fuel cell future in Ohio transit
Kirt Conrad, CEO at Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA), tells Intelligent Transport why the agency has opted for fuel cell electric buses over battery‑powered vehicles, and what the future holds for sustainable urban transport.
SARTA has opted to use fuel cell-powered buses
Why has SARTA adopted a fuel cell bus strategy and what led you to it?
SARTA had been working to try to begin an alternative fuels programme for some time. My first real interest in fuel cells goes back to 2005, when I met Stan Ovshinsky – a scientist and researcher that started a company called ECD Ovonics. He introduced me to the renewable hydrogen circle, so to speak, where you could take hydrogen out of water and then use that hydrogen in a fuel cell to create electricity. Immediately, I thought, “why aren’t we doing this everywhere?”
From then, I tried to get the fuel cell bus programme started, and Northeast Ohio – where I’m located – was as good a location as any; NASA has a research laboratory called NASA Glenn here, where all the power and energy research for NASA is conducted. They have done a lot of work that utilises fuel cells, so there’s a basis of knowledge in the region of the technology.
I put a team together and started applying for grants to be able to fund a fuel cell bus programme. We were successful in getting our first fuel cell grant and the SARTA board of trustees bought into the plan, though, as with anything new, there was some level of education required across the board to get them to understand the importance of launching the programme.
Issue 2 2021
Bus & Coach
United States of America