Champaign-Urbana MTD to launch US first in hydrogen fuel cell transit

Champaign-Urbana MTD to launch US first in hydrogen fuel cell transit

December 24, 2021 0 By Tami Hood

The agency has leveraged partners in both the private and public sector to roll out the tech.

Champaign-Urbana MTD has leveraged public and private partnerships to become the first US transit agency with a hydrogen fuel cell fleet completely fueled by its own renewable source.

The transit agency worked with a spectrum of private and public partners and will make history.

The consortium includes local, private, state, federal and non-profit entities. Along with them, the agency made history earlier this year when it introduced its new fleet of hydrogen fuel cell transit vehicles. This included a 100 percent green H2 production station and the first commercial deployment of 60-foot articulated fuel cell electric buses in the United States.

The partnerships were key to Champaign-Urbana MTD’s capacity to realize its vision for renewable H2-powered transit vehicle. The agency was determined to provide quality innovative and traditional transportation services that are reliable, safe, environmentally sustainable and user friendly.

Hydrogen fuel cell - plan in 2017

The Champaign-Urbana MTD hydrogen fuel cell vehicle and production plan dates back to 2017.

In 2017, the project began when the MTD successfully submitted an application to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for the Low- or No-Emissions program. The outcome was the award of a grant for $1.45 million.

The transit agency also managed to secure additional federal and state funding, enough that 94 percent of the project’s clean, zero-emission and sustainable initiative costs were covered. MTD worked with the Center for Transportation and Environment (CTE) for much of the project’s planning and coordination.

To ensure that the technology would be a genuine zero emission project, MTD secured partners from the private sector for the development of a solar panel array for electricity generation that would power green H2 production. That green H2 was then used for fueling the buses. As a result, the only emission produced by the operation of the vehicles – including in the production of the H2 powering them – is water vapor.

“This isn’t quite Star Trek level technology, but it’s on the path. It’s significant and it’s real,” said Karl Gnadt, MTD General Manager while addressing the hydrogen fuel cell bus project stakeholders, partners, and local, state and federal officials.

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