Fueling the Future: Key Takeaways from ZEBRA's Pivoting to Hydrogen Roundtable in Rochester

June 25, 2024

Authored by Alyssa Fritts, CTE Managing Consultant & ZEBRA Manager

The Zero Emission Bus Resource Alliance (ZEBRA) partnered with the Regional Transit Service (RTS) in Rochester, NY to host a hydrogen-focused roundtable, "Pivoting to Hydrogen," on June 11th and 12th. Representatives of 24 transit agencies across the US and Canada gathered to share experiences on hydrogen fuel cell electric bus (FCEB) deployments and learn about the fueling and infrastructure technologies offered to support zero-emission bus (ZEB) programs. Content included presentations from seven industry leaders on hydrogen bus and fueling equipment; a site tour of RTS’ downtown transfer center and bus depot; and opportunities to network and share experiences. ZEBRA members are pioneers and early adopters in zero-emission transit and bring abundant energy and expertise to these fantastic in-person events.

ZEBRA's latest roundtable was a unique event format in which presenters got to introduce their product as it relates to hydrogen fueling for transit, share in back-and-forth dialogue with the Center for Transportation and the Environment's expert moderator, Alison Smyth, and field questions from a transit-only audience. The seven roundtable presenters — BAE, Clean Energy, Linde, Messer, NYPA, Plug Power, and Trillium — are all leaders in the growing FCEB fueling industry, and shared product offerings, infrastructure insights, and key considerations for agencies pursuing FCEBs as part of their ZEB transition plan. Key discussion points included: scaling infrastructure for growing fleets, hydrogen affordability and minimizing fuel losses, contracting terms, and infrastructure design.

For a live demonstration of ZEB solutions at work, ZEBRA members and presenters boarded an RTS battery electric bus (BEB) for a quick trip to RTS’ Bus Depot. The New York Power Authority (NYPA) gave a presentation on the utility role in NY ZEB programs, and RTS shared how they landed on FCEB for their ZEB transition. Having utilized battery electric buses (BEBs) for several years, RTS is transitioning its ZEB program to FCEBs. This shift addresses the challenge of reduced range experienced by BEBs during colder months. RTS has procured a Plug Power mobile fueling trailer that will support fueling for their initial FCEB rollout while the agency works to build out a permanent fueling station.

As always, the highlight of this event for ZEBRA was the exchange of knowledge between agencies. The learning curve in the zero-emission industry can be steep, and many ZEBRA members are among the first agencies to try out new zero-emission solutions. Fueled by the increasing interest in zero-emission transportation, ZEBRA members convened at this event to address the practical challenges of establishing and implementing their FCEB programs. Sharing experiences - challenges, successes, and everything in between - moves the whole industry forward by allowing agencies to learn from the experiences of their peers.

Thank you to the event sponsors: BAE, Clean Energy, Linde, Messer, NYPA, Plug Power, and Trillium for presenting innovative solutions for ZEB operators, and RTS for partnering as the host agency.

Save the Date: ZEBRA’s fall Roundtable in partnership with RTC of Southern Nevada will take place September 16 & 17 in Las Vegas, NV!

The Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) works on behalf of ZEBRA’s membership to provide the group with technical assistance and industry consultation based on extensive experience in ZEB deployments. CTE is a national non-profit with a mission of moving advanced clean vehicles to market.