CHAMPAIGN-URBANA, Ill (WCIA)– You’ll soon start seeing more hydrogen fuel cell electric buses in Champaign-Urbana. Thanks to four million dollars in federal money.

It is part of Senator Dick Durbin’s initiative to improve electric bus infrastructure. The goal is to provide emission-free ways for people to commute. Of the $8 million he has secured, Champaign-Urbana is getting $3.78 million of it. 

Now MTD is hoping to buy 10 hydrogen buses to replace the diesel ones. 

“We have hydrogen tanks, and we produce the hydrogen onsite here at our maintenance department,” said Karl Gnadt, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District CEO. “Using solar energy and hydrogen in the fuel cells, produce electricity which charges the battery on the bus that runs the electric motor.” 

 Gnadt says it is the wave of the future, but an expensive one.  

“A fuel cell electric bus and a battery electric bus are about 1 million dollars per bus,” said Gnadt. 

He says the price is worth the positive effects it can have on the planet. In the United States alone federal officials say transportation represents 27 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. Diesel buses are partially to blame.  

Gnadt says through a mode shift people in Champaign-Urbana can help reduce those emissions. 

 “That’s people getting out of individual cars and riding collectively in a bus,” said Gnadt. 

Out of MTD’s 118 bus fleet, only two are hydrogen fuel cell electric buses. With federal funding, Gnadt hopes to add 10 more.  

 “This would be the seed money for that, we have some additional federal funds through another source primarily with our Covid recovery funds that we can apply to a capital project,” said Gnadt. 

 He says when the 10 new ones come in, they will retire 10 diesel buses that have reached their shelf life. 

Gnadt says the bus costs a dollar per ride, or you can get an annual pass with unlimited rides for 60 dollars.