SARTA’s groundbreaking hydrogen fuel cell program earns prestigious CALSTART “Blue Sky Award” for 2020

Canton, Ohio - Executive Director and CEO Kirt Conrad and Board President Ron Macala are pleased to announce that the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority’s (SARTA) groundbreaking hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) program has received the prestigious “Blue Sky Award” from CALSTART, a broad-based consortium of private sector firms, governmental agencies, and academic institutions that is leading the clean energy revolution in the transportation industry.

According to Mr. Conrad, the Blue Sky Award is presented annually to individuals and entities committed to increasing the use of cutting edge, sustainable transportation technology in the U.S and abroad. Past Blue Sky winners include General Motors, Coca Cola, Frito Lay, Ikea, Eaton, and the Union Pacific Railroad. Visit https://calstart.org/calstart-blue-sky-award-winners-announced/ to learn more about the Blue Sky Award and CALSTART.

SARTA received the award for being a pioneer in the use of HFC vehicles in the public transit space and for serving as a real-world proving ground for the technology. “We were trailblazers when we used an FTA grant to purchase our first HFC bus in 2010,” Mr. Conrad said. “In theory, fuel cells appeared to be an attractive alternative to diesel, CNG, and plug-in electric power, but at that time a lot of people doubted the propulsion and power systems would be able to stand up to the wear and tear of daily use.”

“The vast amount of data we’ve accumulated and practical experience we’ve gained by operating our HFC fleet on the streets and highways of Stark County in every imaginable type of weather over the past ten year has erased those doubts,” Mr. Conrad continued. “We’ve demonstrated that our buses are reliable and cost-efficient and as a result we’re breaking down the barriers that have slowed wider adoption of the technology in the transit and commercial marketplace.”

CALSTART President and CEO John Boesel said SARTA’s eagerness to share that data with transit systems, decision-makers, the media, and the public made the system especially deserving of the Blue Sky Award. “SARTA is such an evangelist for fuel cell buses that… the transit agency has launched a national promotion that allows other transit agencies to borrow a fuel cell bus …to raise public awareness about and generate support for fuel cell technology,” Mr. Boesel said referring to the system’s wildly popular “Borrow a Bus program “And it’s working--interest has poured in from all over the country.”

Mr. Conrad said SARTA, which suspended the program due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will restart Borrow a Bus in 2021. “We already have invitations from transit systems across the U.S. and Canada,” he said. “We’re excited about hitting the road again as soon as we can do so safely.”

The Blue Sky Award is the second national honor SARTA has received in 2020. Earlier this year the system’s HFC program earned the “Green Fleet Award” from 100 Best Fleets in the Americas. “These awards validate our both our initial decision to embrace HFCs and our continued commitment to the technology—a commitment that has fueled the impressive growth of our fuel cell fleet which now includes 13 full-size and five paratransit vehicles and the state-of-the-art hydrogen refueling station that keeps them on the road,” Mr. Conrad said.

“We’ve evolved from a medium-sized transit agency experimenting with a new technology into one of the nation’s and the world’s leading operators of HFC-powered transit vehicles,” he continued. “It’s been an incredible journey made possible by two things: our ability to secure tens of millions in state and federal grants that have enabled us to purchase vehicles and build the infrastructure needed to operate them and the riders, elected officials, community leaders, and residents who make everything we do at SARTA possible. They all deserve the Blue Sky Award.”

For more information please contact Kirt Conrad at 330-477-2782.