RICK MACDONNELL, SnowSeekers Inc.
Throughout the past 10 days, Whistler has showcased record-breaking performances from some of the most incredible athletes in the world. But it's also showcasing a record-breaker of a different kind: the world's largest fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses, the only byproduct of which is water.
The 20 emission-free buses make up over 60% of the Whistler bus system. The project will serve as the most northern example of the "hydrogen highway" initiative that's spreading through North America's west coast.
The Province of British Columbia's investment in the world's first hydrogen bus fleet and fueling stations is also underway in Victoria.
"The transit initiative in Whistler is a big step towards sustainability. These new buses allow for reliable, accessible service that reduces maintenance costs at the same time," said Joanna Morton, media relations spokesperson for B.C. Transit.
"The hydrogen buses are actually constructed of less moving parts than a regular bus, which leads to quicker, most cost-effective maintenance measures."
The new hydrogen fuel cell buses – each with 37 seats, a 60-person standing capacity, and a top speed of 90 km per hour – are approximately twice as efficient as internal combustion engines and emit no smog whatsoever.
The buses are also built with wider doors, extendible ramps, and hydraulics that allow the bus to be lowered nine inches, which means more accessibility for wheelchairs and strollers.
"This initiative isn't just about sustainability, it's about creating the most efficient buses possible. Accessibility is a large part of that."
Although the buses look almost identical to the rest of the Whistler fleet, they're very different. By combining hydrogen and oxygen (air), the fuel cell motor converts chemical energy directly into electricity to power the bus. The only byproducts of the reaction are heat and water.
The cell itself requires no recharging as long as hydrogen and oxygen are present. According to the BC Ministry of Transport, the buses will have a range of 310 miles, a top speed of 56 mph, and an estimated life of 20 years. They also make less noise than traditional buses.
The fleet was made possible by a $45 million grant from the B.C. government, with help from the Government of Canada. The buses were built by a consortium that includes Burnaby-based Ballard Power Systems, Winnipeg-based New Flyer Industries, California-based ISE Corp. and Calgary-based Dynateck.
"The plan is to have the buses remain in Whistler for the next five years, and then we'll make a decision on where to go from there. But when you can build cleaner and greener, there's no question that these buses are a glimpse into our transit future."
Stay tuned to www.snowseekers.ca/olympicnews for daily blogs, videos and more throughout the Olympics.
Winter is here and the snow is in the mountains. Click here for winter driving tips and get their safe.Read more
Build your epic ski bucket list, win prizes and more! Learn more
Not sure what resort to visit next? Our Resort Recommender will tell you where to go, based on what you want. Check it out