Whistler to get 20 hydrogen buses
The provincial government pledged $45 million Monday for a hydrogen bus fleet to service Whistler in time for the 2010 Olympics.
The 20 buses will be developed by a private company and are expected to be operating in 2009. The money will also go towards developing hydrogen fuelling stations in Whistler and Victoria.
$2.25m per bus. That would get you at least six diesels or maybe three trolleys. This is an extreme example of what I said recently about alt fuel buses producing a smaller bus fleet.
This of course is not really about transport at all. It’s all about window dressing. Potemkin villages to impress the Olympic visitors. It will not make the slightest bit of difference to air quality or greenhouse gas emissions, but it will enable Gordon to pretend to be green to Arnie and the other governors. (Arnie, by the way is not the ally we had hoped. He is pushing freeways over high speed trains in California but I must not get distracted)
Hydrogen is not a fuel. It is a very inefficient storage mechanism to allow for electric energy to be applied to a moving vehicle. Hydrogen is a by product of all kinds of chemical plants – but that is not clean enough for fuel cells. Tonnes are thrown away by a plant in North Vancouver. So it is made by electrically splitting water apart and then “reassembling” it later. If the electricity is hydro this is pretty well emission free – although damns and even run of the river are not the green things we once held them to be. They have environmental impacts too. But this is a pretty inefficient way of storing electricity. Batteries (which have been extensively researched) basically weigh too much and waste a lot of energy as heat. Capacitors were going to be good, but fuel cells have centre stage right now. And while in terms of energy density they have come a long way, they are still not the silver bullet. Hydrogen being very difficult and expensive to store and lug around. Despite being the most abundant element on the planet.
The plan also involves an additional $34 million to be provided jointly by the federal and provincial governments, for B.C. Transit to operate the fleet over a five-year period.
Just what you would expect. No long term commitment to get more transit service to where it is desperately needed. No money for more transit service for the suburbs, or low income areas, or native reserves, or people with disabilities. Or pockets of high unemployment. Or places where there are jobs but no-one to fill them. These are not governments’ priorities. They just want to do a buck and wing on the world stage for two weeks, and give some more subsidies to businesses that cannot make a dollar in the marketplace.