A model that CALSTART has used with much success in accelerating the pathways to advanced clean transportation technologies is the formation and coordination of users' groups that share a need for a key emerging technology. The Hybrid Truck Users Forum
(HTUF) has been cited by experts for hastening the development of hybrid trucks by as much as two to three years. HTUF brought fleets, suppliers and truck makers together to foster rapid pathways to commercially available hybrid trucks.
Following the HTUF model, CALSTART has been providing leadership to a growing list (currently twelve) of southern California transit properties representing more than 5,000 buses under the umbrella of Z-TUG (Zero-emission enabling-technologies Transit Users Group). CALSTART will work with Z-TUG members to identify technology pathways, and jointly develop requirements for collaborative demonstrations. By adopting this approach, not only will the process be user-driven, but joint efforts will likely expedite a pathway towards zero emission buses.
In 2005, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approached CALSTART for assistance in developing a roadmap of the pathways forward to hydrogen in transit. CALSTART had already led a national team initiative aimed at creating a partnership of top private and public transit partners, including industry leaders in manufacturing and using fuel cell technologies. The successful result was the FTA National Fuel Cell Bus Program, legislation that created a $49 million pool for development to drive down the costs and increase the reliability and durability of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies for transportation. So when the FTA sought assistance in developing a program that focused on results-oriented collaboration, there was already a high level of confidence that CALSTART could produce quantifiable results, and the initial funds were approved in late 2007.
California's emission regulations have been an important driver in moving zero-emissions development in transit. In working with transit agencies on compliance with the zero-emission bus (Z Bus) regulation, CALSTART met with Southern California transit properties using Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and an interest in hydrogen and hydrogen-natural gas blends. Following the HTUF model of a user driven process, the program manager - Dr. Lawrence Wnuk - formulated an initial concept for Z-TUG, and solicited interest from a number of these forward-thinking agencies. Two agencies offered to Co-chair the initial group - SunLine Transit Agency and LA Metro through their Advanced Transit Vehicle Consortium. The South Coast Air Quality Management District also shares an interest in the pathways to zero-emission technology in transit and participates in the meetings. The California Air Resources Board has also participated in discussions and explanation of regulations.
CALSTART will work with Z-TUG members to identify technology pathways,
and jointly develop requirements for collaborative demonstrations
An early survey was circulated to ascertain the participants' existing knowledge and experience with alternative fuels, near-zero emissions and advanced drivetrains in transit service. Among other findings, the clear preferences among the group participants were for such technologies as:
• Hydrogen-natural gas blend fueled internal combustion engine
• Hydrogen internal combustion engines (HICE)
• Hybrid drivetrains, either HICE or fuel cell powered
• Fuel cell buses
• Battery electric buses
Z-TUG members have identified a strong near term need to understand the hydrogen refueling infrastructure necessary to support the rollout of vehicles so an emphasis will also be placed on understanding hydrogen fueling infrastructure. Following the HTUF model, CALSTART in future meetings will work with the Z-TUG members to identify technology pathways, and jointly develop requirements for collaborative demonstrations - a primary role of the Z-TUG members. Sharing requirements and data among members and suppliers will also help drive innovation and encourage technology commercialization.
By adopting this user-driven process, joint efforts will likely result in greater success more rapidly due to efficiencies gained through joint procurement with common specifications that identifies key technologies and provides the "voice of the customer" inputs to bus makers and suppliers. Sharing and consensus among transit users are expected to lead to robust designs while providing economies of scale for bus makers. Periodic progress updates will be provided as the Z-TUG process evolves.