Researchers at GE Global Research have achieved a first step in reducing the cost of zero emission buses, with a vehicle powered by General Electric’s new Durathon battery in tandem with a lithium battery and a hydrogen fuel cell. According to GE, this development of a new energy management system could help accelerate both fuel cell acceptance and electrification of bus fleets, delivery trucks and other larger, heavy-duty vehicle fleets enabling clean vehicle technologies.

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“For years fuel cells have been talked about as a clean transportation alternative but cost has always been a roadblock to widespread adoption,” said Tim Richter, Systems Engineer in the Electric Propulsion Systems Lab at GE Global Research. “With GE’s battery technology and dynamic dual battery management system, we’re starting to push that roadblock aside.”

GE researchers believe that the kind of energy management architecture they’re building will allow for a bus to operate at full performance with a significantly smaller fuel cell than previously possible. A fuel cell power plant represents a significant cost and GE’s energy management system has the potential to bring down those costs by up to 50%.

Richter added, “What we want to deliver is a cost-effective bus that emits no harmful pollutants.”

Most types of batteries today come with a trade-off between power and energy storage. Lithium batteries, provide a lot of power for acceleration, but are not optimized to store energy for driving range. Sodium batteries, like GE’s Durathon, are on the opposite side of the spectrum. They store large amounts of energy, but are less optimized for power. GE’s dual battery combines the best attributes of both into a single system by allowing the lithium battery to focus on acceleration and braking, while the Durathon battery provides an even electric power flow to extend the bus range.

Many of the 846,000 buses registered in the U.S. travel less than 100 miles per day. Enabling more of these buses to transition to a fuel cell-battery, zero emissions platform would dramatically reduce CO2 emissions and petroleum fuel consumption.

+ General Electric