Diesel vs. hydrogen buses: Lewis County Transit director talks cost comparison  


After the first new hydrogen fuel cell bus was delivered to Lewis County Transit by New Flyer on Monday, Lewis County Transit Executive Director Joe Clark spoke with The Chronicle about the cost of the vehicles in comparison to their diesel-powered counterparts.

Clark said the hydrogen-fueled buses come at a cost of approximately $1.2 million per bus. Lewis County Transit plans to have five in service by the end of 2025.

Clark said hydrogen fuel cell buses will help Lewis County Transit save money over the long run despite the diesel engine buses currently coming with a lower price tag of about $800,000 each. 

After the initial purchase cost, Lewis County Transit staff must also account for annual maintenance and upkeep costs to the bus fleet, Clark said.  

“Though the initial cost is cheaper, diesel buses cost on average $300,000 annually to run and maintain,” Clark said. “Hydrogen buses cost on average about $225,000 a year.” 

Each bus purchased comes with the expectancy of a minimum of 12 years in service in Lewis County Transit’s fleet. That means, over the span of 12 years, the hydrogen fuel cell bus will save Lewis County Transit approximately $900,000 in maintenance and upkeep costs per bus, Clark estimated.

Clark sourced the hydrogen fuel cell bus annual maintenance cost from several California transit agencies that have been using the buses in their fleets for five years now. He added the new buses also get better mileage than their diesel counterparts. 

With one kilogram of hydrogen being equivalent to one gallon of diesel fuel in terms of usable energy produced, the diesel buses Lewis County Transit operates get approximately 5 to 6 miles per gallon. Hydrogen gets approximately 7 to 9 miles per kilogram. 

The hydrogen fuel cell buses are hybrids, with the hydrogen powering generators that keep batteries on the buses charged. Clark said if a bus runs out of hydrogen while on a route, it will still have enough energy left to power it for another 30 minutes. 

Lewis County Transit’s hydrogen refueling station, being developed on Port of Chehalis property, is expected to be completed by 2025, Clark said. 

In the meantime, a temporary hydrogen refueling station is being set up at Lewis County Transit’s headquarters for the hydrogen buses’ testing and drivers’ training periods this year.

Local organizations and agencies are participating in the Pacific Northwest Hydrogen Hub (PNWH2), which in total will receive up to $1 billion for hydrogen projects.

Recipients of PNWH2 funding include Puget Sound Energy, Lewis County Transit, Centralia College and USA Fortescue Future Industries.

Read more on the arrival of the hydrogen buses at Lewis County Transit in this article from Tuesday’s edition of The Chronicle: https://tinyurl.com/2zv734ku.