Costa Rica is about to launch its first bus with a hydrogen-powered electric engine, a prototype that could open the doors to a clean transportation system that stops hydrocarbon imports.
The bus developed by the Ad Astra Rocket Company in Liberia, 220 kilometers northwest of San José, has a hydrogen-powered electric engine stored in a tank.
Traditional electric vehicles have an engine that gets electricity from a battery. Those that use hydrogen have an electric engine, but the electricity comes from a fuel cell that feeds on hydrogen and oxygen,”
explained José Castro, scientific director of the company.
The bus is scheduled to start operating in June in Liberia and was developed in alliance with other companies, such as the French Air Liquide, the US hybrid Corporation, Cummins, and the Costa Rican operator Relaxury.
The bus makes the country the second Latin American nation to develop the technology to obtain hydrogen for transportation purposes, since Brazil also has demonstration buses in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
In industrialized countries the technology is more advanced and is used in Japan, several European countries and the American state of California. Even Toyota, Hyundai and Honda vehicle brands have models with hydrogen-powered electric engines.
The peculiarity in the case of Costa Rica is that hydrogen is obtained from the separation of water molecules (formed by two hydrogen atoms and one of oxygen), which does not generate pollutant emissions.
In industrialized countries, methane gas undergoes a treatment with steam to separate the hydrogen from the carbon. In this case, the release of carbon into the atmosphere has a polluting effect, albeit on a small scale.
The resulting hydrogen is stored in a high pressure tank, from which it is transferred with a hose to the vehicle tank. The element generates electricity when it comes in contact with oxygen, and the only resultant emission is water, without any pollutant, according to Castro.
The expectation of the bus manufacturers is that hydrogen technology is consolidated in the country, with plants to obtain the element and stations similar to the gas stations that distribute it to vehicles.
This would allow the country to take advantage of its internal resources, such as water and electricity, almost entirely from renewable sources, to generate clean energy for transportation that replaces hydrocarbon imports.