Developing the overall concept of a fuel cell bus project sets the scope and, in many ways, the basis for the overall success of the project.
The Project Conceptualisation Stage provides the context within which the buses will operate and be perceived by the key stakeholders. It can also facilitate a broader framework within which other applications of hydrogen and fuel cell technology can be developed and utilised. These can provide a means to address energy system-wide and environmental issues as well.
A key factor in this and all subsequent Stages is deciding which organisation will be the lead partner, its roles, responsibilities and accountabilities, and those of other key partners in the project. Commonly the lead partner is either the PTA or the PTO.
In general terms, the PTA is the organisation within the local or regional public administration that has the legal responsibility for making sure that there is a public transport system, its general terms and conditions, and arranging the contracts with operators. The PTO is the organisation, frequently but not always a private company, that operates the public transport service, in this case, the FCBs and their routes. There are many variations to these general arrangements and relationships. For example, bus ownership might be with the PTA or PTO, and the PTO might be an independent company or owned by the local administration, the PTO may maintain the buses or contract that out to another organisation.
This project Stage is considered in three Sub-stages:
- Understanding the Context – why does a city or region decide to participate in a fuel cell bus project and what links can such a project have to other plans and activities of the city or region.
- Clarifying and Managing Expectations – understanding what expectations the relevant stakeholders may have of the project outcomes, and ensuring they are realistic.
- Stakeholder Identification and Support – developing a Stakeholder Map (including prioritisation) and Communication Plan and implementing it early in the project.
These Sub-stages are likely to run in parallel and influence each other, rather than being addressed one by one.