A US$32 million project was launched yesterday to help reduce the cost of fuel-cell bus (FCB) technology, one of the most promising methods for developing emission-free public transport.
Jointly funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Global Environment Facility (GEF) and United Nations Development Program, the project will lead to trials of FCBs - along with their hydrogen refueling stations - in Beijing and Shanghai.
Over the next five years, the project will help public transit companies in each municipality obtain six FCBs and use them for a total of 1.6 million kilometers.
The knowledge and experience gained through the project will enable technology suppliers to identify cost reduction opportunities and the municipal public transit operators to prepare for larger FCB fleets, according to Ma Songde, vice-minister of science and technology.
"Finally, a detailed strategy for large-scale FCB implementation in China will be defined," Ma said.
Fan Boyuan, vice-mayor of Beijing, applauded the scheme, saying it will greatly assist the Chinese capital's battle to curb transport pollution.
According to Fan, a reduction in exhaust emissions, which can be attributed to the city's stepped up administrative measures to combat the problem, is one of the major reasons behind improved air quality.
About 60 percent of last year's days are regarded as having "fine air quality."
"Beijing is steadily replacing petrol with clean energy such as liquefied petroleum gas in its public transit system," Fan said.
"We hope many FCBs are on the roads during the 2008 Olympic Games for the sake of better air quality."
China's bus project is part of a global GEF strategy, which supports FCB development in developing countries.
In cooperation with GEF projects and other similar proposals in industrialized countries, GEF wants to reduce the expense of FCBs so they can become more cost-competitive, a ministry source said.
The ministry also disclosed yesterday in a document that requests for FCB proposals for Beijing and Shanghai were expected during autumn.
"Bids for different combinations of fuel cell engines, bus chassis and body manufacturers, and fuelling system vendors will be sought and encouraged. It is preferred that a single supplier will be contracted for the buses and fuelling system, with appropriate sub-contracting arrangements," it said.
(China Daily March 28, 2003)