When BC Transit’s first hydrogen-fueled bus hits the streets of Victoria this summer, Jeremy Wise will know it’s an environmentally sustainable choice for the province. Last fall the UVic mechanical engineering student spent a four-month co-op term performing a lifecycle analysis of BC Transit’s current fleet of diesel, bio-diesel and hybrid buses, to compare their lifecycles to the projected lifecycle data for the new zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell buses that will begin joining the BC Transit fleet this summer. Lifecycle analysis considers the environmental impact of a product from cradle to grave, including production, operation and disposal.

“There were a million different factors to consider,” says Wise. “The research involved a lot more than just looking at the best fuel to kilometre ratio.” For instance it’s often said that the only thing coming out of the tail pipe of a hydrogen-fueled vehicle is water. But as Wise explained, some forget to consider how the fuel was produced. “If they use coal or another fossil fuel to separate the hydrogen, then we have to add that to the equation,” said Wise, adding that in BC we use mostly hydro-electrical energy, which is renewable and doesn’t create emissions. Given this, Wise concluded that hydrogen-fueled buses will lower overall emissions and lessen the fleet’s environmental impact.

Wise’s attention to detail was part of what landed him the job. After meeting BC Transit Project Manager Bruce Rothwell at a conference on alternative energy last year, he worked with Rothwell to create his own co-op position. “Co-op is always a great resource for us to find help,” said Rothwell. “It was a really good experience that we both benefited from. We didn’t really have the people available to do this baseline research so it was definitely a good time to bring a co-op student on board to get it done.”

 

It was certainly a timely work term. The province recently committed to funding the world’s largest commercial hydrogen development with a fleet of 20 low-floor, hydrogen-powered busses and a series of fueling stations. The buses are scheduled to hit the roads across the province in time for the 2010 Olympics.