King County Metro to launch hydrogen fuel cell bus pilot in 2026

King County Metro to launch hydrogen fuel cell bus pilot in 2026 Image credit: King County Metro

King County Metro will explore adding up to four hydrogen fuel cell buses as early as 2026 as part of a pilot project. These zero-emission buses provide extended range, run on hydrogen and emit only water vapor. Seeing how hydrogen fuel cell buses perform will inform if Metro should use them to complement its battery-electric and trolley buses.

Metro was the first public transit agency in North America to adopt diesel-hybrid buses in 2004. In 2020, the agency retired its last diesel-only buses. Forty battery-electric buses from New Flyer started entering service in 2022, with another 89 scheduled to begin arriving in 2026 from GILLIG. Consequently, Metro’s employees are well-equipped in developing, implementing and managing fleets with advanced technologies. The hydrogen fuel cell bus pilot offers yet another opportunity for current and future Metro employees to gain valuable knowledge and skills.

While battery-electric buses boast a range of 140 miles for a 60-foot bus and 220 miles for a 40-foot bus, Metro and other transit agencies have experienced range limitations and variability, especially in cold weather. Hydrogen fuel cell buses have the potential to travel up to 300 miles and their extended range has particular promise on all-day, frequent routes.

Metro’s battery-electric buses and charging infrastructure are a frequent destination for fact-finding visits by other transit agencies and private contractors. Sustainability is also a major component of the agency’s planning for current and future facilities—such as the Interim Bus Base that broke ground earlier this year.

Source: King County Metro