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SARTA Lends Fuel Cell Buses Free to Interested Agencies

The Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA) in Canton, OH, invites any U.S. public transit agency interested in learning more about operating a hydrogen fuel cell (HFC)-powered bus to borrow, at no charge, a vehicle from its fleet.

SARTA noted that the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority (The COMET), Columbia, SC, is the first agency to borrow a bus under this program.

“‘Borrow a Bus’ was created to raise public awareness about and generate support for HFCs,” said SARTA Chief Executive Officer Kirt Conrad. “Most Americans, including policy makers and the media, don’t know what fuel cells are or how they work. Giving people across the country the opportunity to see, learn about and ride on an HFC bus is the best way to demonstrate this technology’s potential to totally transform the way vehicles are powered here in the U.S. and around the world.”

Conrad noted that the bus manufacturer, El Dorado National, and BAE, which makes the propulsion system that drives SARTA’s fuel cell buses, are covering all costs for the “Borrow a Bus” project and also providing free technical support and fuel for the vehicles while on loan.

SARTA, although a relatively small public transit agency, has used a combination of state and federal grants to assemble a
Posing in front of the hydrogen fuel cell bus that SARTA lent to The COMET, from left: John Andoh, executive director, The COMET; Alan Bristol, Transdev general manager; and Robert Harrison, Transdev director of maintenance.
fleet of 13 HFC buses and build a hydrogen refueling station.

“What began as an effort to achieve our goal of operating an emissions-free transit system has evolved into a multifaceted campaign to revolutionize private, commercial and public transportation in the U.S. and across the world,” Conrad said. “Education is a key component of that campaign and ‘Borrow a Bus’ will be a great educational tool.”

SARTA also announced that, effective October 2019, it will add seven-passenger paratransit vans to its fleet of HFC vehicles, funded by FTA, EPA and Ohio DOT.

“Along with providing safe, clean, reliable transit service to area residents, putting the vans on the road will give us another opportunity to demonstrate how well HFCs perform in daily use under tough conditions,” Conrad said. “We’re confident we’ll be able to show, as we have with our large buses, that fuel cells will help drive America’s shift away from fossil fuels toward electric vehicles.”

He also said that Ohio, and Stark County in particular, are leading centers for fuel cell research and development and manufacturing. “As the technology gains a foothold,” he continued, “our region will attract millions of dollars in investment that will spur business development and create as many as 65,000 new, well-paying jobs over the next 15 years.”
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