Flint, MI—The Flint Mass Transportation Authority received a multi-million dollar grant to support the expansion of its zero-emissions bus program.

In an Aug. 16 press release, Flint MTA announced a $4,334,800 grant from the Federal Transit Administration’s Low and No Emission Vehicle program, itself funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. 

According to the release, Flint MTA plans to use the funding to purchase two hydrogen fuel cell buses and expand its existing hydrogen fueling station in Grand Blanc, Mich.

For those unfamiliar with the growing hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (FCV) movement, such vehicles tend to be likened to electric vehicles as both use an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine to power their wheels. 

However, unlike electric vehicles that must be connected to a power source for recharging, FCVs produce their own electricity onboard, mixing the hydrogen in their gas tanks with oxygen from the air.

The process is not only considered more efficient than internal combustion, but its byproducts are just heat and water—meaning clean, zero-carbon emissions.

“And I’ll tell you what,” said Flint MTA General Manager and CEO Ed Benning. “The water that comes out the tailpipe of that vehicle is clean enough for you to make coffee with.”

Benning said Flint MTA developed its hydrogen fueling facility and deployed its first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in 2010 after “some argument” with the Federal Transit Administration at the time.

“They were concerned that we were considered to be kind of a small system to do something of that nature,” Benning said. “But we won them over and told them that we intend to study it over a long period of time before we move forward with any additional vehicles.”

Twelve years later, Flint MTA will be using this grant money to replace the last two remaining diesel buses in its fleet, which is otherwise a mix of vehicles fueled by propane, propane, compressed natural gas, and hydrogen.

“This period of time has allowed us to understand [hydrogen fuel cell technology], study it, see what’s the performance of the vehicles, and prepare ourselves for where we’re at today: to be able to move forward into the future,” Benning said.

Flint MTA’s $4.3 million grant is one of four given to Michigan-based transit providers and one of 150 grants—totaling over $1.6 billion—given to transportation authorities across the United States through the Federal Transit Administration this year.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....