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Taking the HyRoad

For 26 years, Olivia Hodges has been driving a bus for AC TransitAlameda-Contra Costa Transit. Five years ago, she was selected to drive AC Transit’s first fuel cell bus. “Drivers have the mind set to drive anything that comes to us," she said.

AC Transit started its HyRoad program in 1999 as a way to combat local air pollution. A diesel bus produces tons of CO2 and pounds of criteria pollutants every year. Operating mostly in urban areas, the emissions are trapped and contribute to a number of health problems. Replacing just one diesel bus with a zero emission bus makes an immediate impact.

How did the drivers react to this new kind of bus? Olivia said, “At first I was worried because I did not know much about hydrogen, but we had safety training and I became more relaxed.” Olivia learned that a fuel cell bus is as safe as the diesel bus she was used to driving. FCB safety systems are different than diesel buses to compensate for a lighter-than-air fuel.

When asked what she likes most about the AC Transit bus, Olivia quickly replied, “Drivers like the quietness the most. Passengers even ask if the bus is running! Drivers also say that they feel better in the FCB because they are not inhaling diesel fumes all day.”

Passengers do ask questions about the fuel cell bus. Olivia and the other drivers do their best to answer questions about crash testing, how the bus works and explaining zero emissions.

Olivia now trains other AC Transit drivers to operate the fuel cell buses. "Drivers and passengers are glad AC Transit is trying to clean the air. We’ll be getting more FCBs soon and everyone can breathe easier."