The arrival of the first electric hydrogen-powered bus may turn Costa Rica into the Latin American hub of technological development.
The acquisition of the hydrogen fuel cell bus is part of a project supported by Ad Astra Rocket, and other companies like Cummins Inc, U.S Hybrid Corporation, and Relaxury S.A. The main goal is to introduce a new type of industry into the country, “the hydrogen economy.”
The bus, nicknamed Nyuti, is roomy enough to seat 35 passengers and has an autonomy of 338 kilometers per 38 kilograms of compressed hydrogen.
How does it work?
Chang, president of Ad Astra Rocket, explained that hydrogen is produced by means of a process called electrolysis (decomposition of water and oxygen.)
These vehicles use the hydrogen stored and oxygen to produce electricity, power the motor and make the vehicle work. The subproduct is water vapor, which is not a contaminant.
“This tank provides hydrogen to the cell. The cell acts like a small battery that sucks the hydrogen from the tank, uses the oxygen from the air and combines both elements to produce water and then electricity. Fuel cell cars power their motors with hydrogen.”- said Chang during an interview.
Chang also added that these vehicles have a better performance on the road and their batteries can be charged in only 3 minutes while in conventional buses, 10 minutes). For this reason, they believe that Costa Rica is perfect for this kind of industry.
“There are many things involved in this business, the hydrogen economy is our proposal. We are just trying to open that door. It’s like a field test. We have to understand the financial and operational part of this. We must be conscious of how expensive it is to maintain hydrogen fuel cell buses” – said Chang who was formerly a NASA astronaut.
Some niches are connected to this technological proposal, for example, electrolysis.
“The power market in Costa Rica is not huge. We are not pretending to change it in a twinkling of an eye, but I’m sure it’s going to change because the oxygen is not expensive. It can be used for oxygenating batteries and for sewage water treatment” – he said.
In 2015, the scientist showed interest in producing hydrogen by using methane cells for the pineapple industry. He also proposed the use of hydrogen to power the telecommunication towers of national parks and Isla de Coco (Coco Island.)
This project is financed, for the most part, by 60% of private companies and 40% by the Banking System for the Development.
The hydrogen fuel cell bus is not Ad Astra Rocket’s property. It is part of the contribution from private companies. Cummins is paying US Hybrid an amount of $125,000 for the bus shipment.
“Once the bus is ready to work, it will be used to transport the Liberia airport employees for free. This is because we want people to know the vehicle. In a matter of 6 or 12 months, the fare should be set by the Regulating Authority of Public Services. We want people to feel comfortable going from A to B in a high-quality bus” – Chang said.
Hydrogen is processed by an As Astra team in Liberia. Chang considers his team as a group of high-flyers that are prepared enough to boost this project.
Nyuti will arrive at Ad Astra in some days for protocol tests.