August 17, 2022
Nearly $15 Million ‘Low or No-Emissions’ Award Will Allow Montgomery to Create the First Hydrogen Electric Bus Project on the East Coast
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) has won a competitive grant award of nearly $15 million from the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for the purchase of 13 new hydrogen fuel cell buses and the construction of a green hydrogen fueling site at the David F. Bone Equipment Maintenance Transit Operations Center in Gaithersburg. The project will be the first public transit application of green hydrogen on the East Coast.
The award, from FTA’s Low or No Emission Vehicle Program, makes the County a leading adopter of this clean technology.
The award will enable replacement of 13 diesel-fueled buses in the County’s Ride On fleet with zero-emission, hydrogen-electric powered buses. The project advances the County’s goal to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2035. It reduces annual emissions by 640 tons while ensuring reliable and sustainable bus service.
“This is the first project of its kind on the East Coast and drives forward several of our priorities, including converting our bus fleets to clean energy, reducing harmful emissions and improving our transit system—all in alignment with our ambitious climate goals,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “I’m pleased that the Federal Transit Administration selected our project for this competitive award and I want to thank the Maryland Congressional Delegation for supporting the effort. I specifically want to thank Sen. Ben Cardin, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Rep. Jamie Raskin, Rep. David Trone and Rep. John Sarbanes for their support.”
By producing hydrogen onsite using zero-emission electrolysis, the County avoids the byproducts of traditional fossil fuel-based hydrogen production. The zero-emission buses use hydrogen to power electric motors and emit only water from their tailpipes.
The new fuel cell buses, along with existing and planned battery-electric buses in the Ride On fleet, will enable MCDOT to provide clean, sustainable and reliable bus service.
In March 2022, FTA announced approximately $1.1 billion available to jurisdictions across the name for grants to assist modernization of bus fleets and to help transit agencies purchase or lease low- or no- emission vehicles that use advanced technologies to help improve air quality and combat climate change. FTA received 530 eligible project proposals totaling approximately $7.72 billion in requests.
These are the first of the FTA's competitive grant selections under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The programs support the Biden-Harris Administration's commitment to expand the nation's transportation infrastructure, create and maintain good-paying jobs and fight climate change.
“With today's awards, we are helping communities across America—in cities, suburbs and rural areas alike—purchase more than 1,800 new buses, and most of them are zero-emission,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. "Funded through President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this announcement means more good jobs for people across the country, cleaner air in our communities and more affordable and reliable options to help people get to where they need to go."
The FTA award covers 57 percent of the total $28.6 million dollar of the Montgomery County project. The County will provide the required match from funds programmed in its capital budget for buses.
MCDOT continues its commitment to move to a zero-emissions fleet. In September 2017, MCDOT received an FTA grant for $1.75 million to purchase four electric buses and charging stations. Those buses are currently in service in the Silver Spring area. MCDOT received more than $4 million from another FTA grant to replace 10 diesel buses with new electric models. Those buses will be in service later this year.
“We are consistently seeking and applying for grants to further the County’s transportation system,” said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin. “These hydrogen buses are a key element in reaching our zero-emissions goal. They have a longer service period than electric buses to accommodate longer routes in our system and are faster to refuel. Our track record of innovation and sustainability makes us well-positioned to adopt this technology successfully.”
Montgomery County is partnering with industry experts to deliver the project. The Center for Transportation and the Environment, a nonprofit national leader in zero-emission bus deployments, will provide technical assistance. Trillium, a leading provider of clean fuels, will design and construct the hydrogen fueling station.
The buses are expected to be in service by late 2025.