The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) is committed to making their fleet of buses as energy efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. Currently, 97 percent of the fleet runs on clean-burning natural gas. By the end of 2016 they expect the entire fleet to be powered by natural gas, with one notable exception.

On May 23, the OCTA hosted an event to unveil its first zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell bus. Wrapped in a graphic decal of California poppies, the bus will roam the streets of Orange County in a two-year demonstration of hydrogen fuel cell technology. The $2.6 million dollar project is being funded by the Federal Transit Administration’s National Fuel Cell Bus Program.

The bus, which operates by converting chemical energy in hydrogen fuel into electricity, emits only water as exhaust and is completely silent. Likewise, it provides a much smoother and more comfortable ride for passengers than older buses powered by large diesel engines. It can run on a single charge for more than 200 miles, and can be refueled in a matter of minutes. Electric battery-powered buses, on the other hand, can take several hours to charge.

The OCTA has applied for additional funding from the California Air Resources Board in hopes of adding 10 more of the buses to its fleet in the future. They are now the fourth transportation agency in California to operate a hydrogen fuel cell bus.

It’s remarkable how far hydrogen fuel cell technology has come in just a few years. As the cost of the technology continues to fall, we may see more of these vehicles on the road sooner than you might think.