Foothill Transit brings first hydrogen-powered transit buses to L.A. County

Foothill Transit will be launching Los Angeles County’s first three hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) buses into revenue service on Monday, December 5, 2022 on the agency’s Line 291 which serves Pomona, Claremont and La Verne. This historic move is the vanguard of an order of 33 hydrogen fuel cell buses, the largest order of HFC buses in North America, manufactured by New Flyer, a Canadian company. The full fleet of 33 HFC buses should be ready for service by February 2023.

The hydrogen buses produce zero emissions, emitting only water vapor.

“We’re clearing the air in Los Angeles County,” said Doran Barnes, CEO of Foothill Transit. “A hydrogen
bus emits zero air pollutants that contribute to local smog, and zero greenhouse gases responsible for
climate change. It’s the next step on our path toward sustainability.”

The hydrogen tank on top of bus holds 30kg liquid hydrogen. The hydrogen enters the fuel cell stack
with oxygen from outside air, producing a chemical reaction that creates three products — electricity,
heat, and water vapor. The electricity goes to the lithium battery to drive the propulsion system. The
water vapor is the exhaust. The heat is used to heat the bus during winter months – no battery energy is used for heat.

The sides of these clean-energy buses are wrapped with science graphics, sloshing water, and colorful
nature scenes, including one with sea creatures and another depicting the iconic mountains and
waterfalls of Yosemite National Park, to help illustrate the positive impact the agency is making with
innovation and the environment.

The agency’s 33 HFC buses represent 9% of its fleet of 359 buses. The transit agency runs buses along
the San Gabriel and Pomona Valley foothill communities of LA County, into downtown Los Angeles, north Orange County and the west end of San Bernardino County.

Foothill Transit was the first transit agency in the nation to put a fast charge battery-electric bus into
service in 2010.

HFC buses travel 300 miles without stopping for refueling, as compared to battery-electric buses that
need to recharge after 150 miles, and don’t need to stop mid service for refueling, as do battery-electric buses. HFC buses don’t plug into the grid — re-fueling a hydrogen fuel-cell bus takes seven to 10 minutes. The HFC fueling system can be laid into the existing CNG refueling infrastructure, keeping costs down.

A 25,000-gallon hydrogen fuel tank – the largest in Southern California — has already been installed at the Foothill Transit Pomona Operations and Maintenance Facility, and is scheduled to be commissioned in February 2023.

The purchase of the HFC fleet was made possible by a $5M TIRCP grant, an $8.9M Hybrid Truck and Vehicle Incentive Program grant, and various federal grants.

Foothill Transit is the primary public transportation provider for the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys in
Los Angeles County. It serves 327-square miles with a fleet of 359 buses and 38 fixed-route bus lines, including commuter service into downtown Los Angeles.