A hybrid fuel cell-powered city bus built by a Thor Industries Inc. transit bus operation and a fuel-cell developer is in service between Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert, Calif.
The 30-foot ThunderPower bus is operated by the SunLine Transit Agency, which serves the greater Palm Springs desert resort area. The hybrid fuel cell-powered bus travels around 100 miles a day on its Line 50 route.
ThunderPower is the name of the joint venture between Thor – builder of the Dutchmen, Keystone, Airstream and several other RV brands – and ISE Research of San Diego. Thor built the bus while ISE adapted a United Technologies Corp.-built fuel cell, installed at the rear of the bus chassis, which produces electricity for the electric motor that propels the bus.
The fuel cell also charges battery packs on the bus. In times of peak demand, the bus draws on both the fuel cell and the batteries.
The fuel cell combines compressed hydrogen with oxygen to create electricity and produces water vapor as the only byproduct.
Thor has no immediate plans for using fuel cells to propel motorhomes because there is no hydrogen refueling infrastructure available. Consequently, ThunderPower’s current target markets include municipal bus systems and private sector companies with large vehicle fleets because such operations involve numerous vehicles refueling at one location.
However, there are several suppliers of electricity generators to the RV industry that currently are working on fuel cell-powered generators for RV applications.