Strathcona County showed off its brand new hydrogen fuel-cell buses at last weekend’s Electric and Hydrogen Vehicle Expo in Edmonton. 

The buses are part of a $9.8-million pilot project that will eventually have the buses running in Strathcona County and the city of Edmonton. The hope at the moment is to see these buses hit the road sometime in 2023. 

The difference in cost between the hydrogen buses and a normal city bus is a couple hundred thousand. The county received funding through Emissions Reduction Alberta’s (ERA) Shovel-Ready Challenge as well as some grant money to help offset the costs. 

Rod Frank, mayor of Strathcona County, says the motivation to get the county involved in the project stems from a desire to get more sustainable transit and to support local industry.

“We are heavily involved with hydrogen production,” said Frank. “But there also needs to be demand for Hydrogen so this is just one of those steps.” 

Frank says commuters can expect to see a few key differences when riding these new buses. 

“What people should notice is that there is less noise, honestly,” said Frank. “They will be zero emissions also, that is another exciting part.” 

Wade Coombs, the transit director in Strathcona County, says they still have some work to do to make sure the proper infrastructure is in place. 

“We’re working through some of the logistics to get the buses into service,” said Coombs. “Working on some of the safety protocols, training, some of the infrastructure we need like the fueling station and maintenance facilities which would be the first ones here in Alberta.” 

The project will be the first of its kind in the province and the results of how the buses fair within the county will determine their future province-wide. The county will start with just two buses to start but hope to add to its fleet as time goes on. 

“We are going to collect a lot of data,” said Frank. “We’ll then be able to apply that data and hopefully expand our fleet so the fact that we are pioneering in the province is just great for us!”

Once the project begins it will undergo a 23-month pilot program in which the buses will be evaluated on how they handled things such as the harsh Alberta winters. 

“The idea is to start with a small-scale and then once we work through the pilot to make sure everything working then we will look at eventually scaling up by adding more buses to our fleet,” said Coombs. 

Hydrogen fuel-cell technology works by generating electricity through a chemical reaction that involves hydrogen and oxygen mixing.