Hydrogen buses to continue fare free services — Lee

Lee refuelling a hydrogen-powered bus during a site visit to the station. Also seen are Dr Jerip (left) and Sharbini (second right). 

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Oct 23: The hydrogen buses will continue to provide free fare services in the city once they are put in full operation after the completion of the trial run this month.

Transport Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin said the buses are currently on a trial run to collect more data and information to ensure everything will be smooth and safe before it is launched to the public.

“It will be free (to the public) for the time being. Two buses will ply the streets, while one will be reserved for special functions like ferrying international delegates,” he told a press conference after visiting the Sarawak Energy hydrogen production plant and refuelling station in Pending, here, today.

Lee (in light blue shirt) discussing something with Sharbini (right) after taking a look at the hydrogen production plant (in the background).

“We have yet to decide on the launching date as we are still waiting for the final report on the trial run. More information including bus routes will be revealed in due time,” he added.

Lee suggested that the buses be equipped with free WiFi, CCTVs, TV screen and advertising opportunities to improve service.

“I have also proposed that new fleet of buses in the future be equipped with automated platform to enable disabled and handicapped passengers to embark and disembark more conveniently,” he continued.

Lee said the contamination problem at the hydrogen production plant has been rectified and resolved, while the refuelling station has been recommissioned. The hydrogen-powered buses have returned for refuelling since Oct 13.

Lee giving his thumb’s up on the hydrogen fuel cell car.

He added that representatives from Linde EOX, the technology provider and system integrator, have discovered new methods to resolve the problem, which was due to the pressure difference of the Chinese model hydrogen fuel cell buses.

He explained that the fuel tank pressure for normal buses was about 300 bar, while the Chinese model buses have bigger tanks. It was a minor technical issue and Linde experts have equipped an additional separator.

Lee reiterated that hydrogen powered public transportation has a good future as more countries in the world are going for hydrogen fuel cell technology.

“Hydrogen is the lightest gas. It is stored on the roof in a series of high pressure cylinders and any leakage will dissipate quickly and vertically to the atmosphere with little impedance. The bus can run for 300 kilometres with 20kg of hydrogen,” he said.

Lee added that the only disadvantage for electric vehicle is the lithium battery, which needed to be replaced after five years and cost five times more.

In this regards, the minister said Sarawak Energy’s focus in the research and development for hydrogen was crucial, considering the big demand for hydrogen as the most prospective renewable resources not only for automobile but also industrial uses.

Lee said his ministry is working closely with its federal counterpart on the implementation of Stage Bus Service (SBS) Transformation programme, following the approval of RM500 million in Budget 2020 to support electric buses.

“Kuching is one of the cities selected for the programme. The Kuching City Bus Consortium has already put up the proposal and I’ve also written to the federal Transport Minister (Anthony Loke) to meet and discuss matters affecting Sarawak public transportation,” he added.

Assistant Minister of Transport Datuk Dr Jerip Susil and Sarawak Energy Group CEO Sharbini Suhaili were present. — DayakDaily