To refuel SunLine’s growing hydrogen bus fleet, an Indio mobile station has been added to SunLine’s Thousand Palms facility, which is home to the country’s largest hydrogen fueling station dedicated to transit.
The hydrogen refueling system is essentially a mobile trailer made possible by a collaboration with NICE American Research, the technology’s creator. For the past six years, NICE has been collaborating with SunLine on the development of its first mobile pump trailer, which is based in Indio.
Previously, all of SunLine’s hydrogen buses traveled to Thousand Palms for refueling, despite the fact that some buses were stored at the Indio facility overnight. Every third day, liquid hydrogen is delivered to the Indio facility from Ontario. A refueling port that looks like a regular gas pump compresses liquid hydrogen into hydrogen gas, which is fed into the bus through an onboard pump.
SunLine currently has 21 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, four battery electric buses, and 65 clean natural gas vehicles on the road. SunLine plans to convert its fixed-route bus fleet to zero-emission buses by 2035, five years before a state regulation requires public transit agencies to achieve a 100 percent zero-emission bus fleet by 2040.
Future versions of the trailer could hold more liquid hydrogen, allowing it to refuel more buses and other vehicles before the tanks need to be refilled. The gas tank at a gas station may be replaced by a tank for the tanks, which could be installed underground, in the future. Refueling a mobile refueling unit is more difficult than refueling a SunLine hydrogen facility in Thousand Palms, where hydrogen is produced on-site.