THOUSAND PALMS, Calif. - SunLine Transit Agency is celebrating Earth Day a day early. At a ceremony Friday morning, the public transportation company announced plans to expand its clean fuel initiative, thanks to a newly awarded grant.
Dozens of transit agencies applied for the 12.5 million dollar grant. It's aimed to support pollution-free transportation.
SunLine CEO,Lauren Skiver says SunLine has been a leader in its field for decades.
"The number of fuel cell busses being deployed across the world is all due to the pioneering and development that was done right here at SunLine," Skiver said.
The grant money was funded by California Climate Investments, part of the state's effort to use proceeds from the climate change Cap and Trade program.
SunLine will be using the money to purchase five new zero-emission buses, which are priced at $1.1 million dollars each.
Tom Edward, Chief Operations Manager for SunLine explains how the busses are fueled;
"The wheels turn off of electricity. The hydrogen fuel cell takes the hydrogen and air, mixes that, and the exhaust is only water, pure water. So that makes this bus zero emission."
Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia says this is just another step closer to achieving clean air.
"Part of our goal in our climate change policies are to get more people out of vehicles and into public transportation. We're excited to be able to align our efforts with those policies," Garcia said.
SunLine is also upgrading their existing hydrogen generation station. It will be the largest in the country.
"It's going to allow us to expand our hydrogen capabilities to make 800 kilograms a day with renewable electricity; solar, wind and other renewables. Once we get that in operation, we will be able to take care of a fleet of up to 30 busses," Edward said.
The new busses are expected to be in transit by mid 2018, bus fares will not change.
Get a free bus ride tomorrow, 4/22, to celebrate Earth Day.
The grant from California Climate Investments, a statewide program that awards cap-and-trade dollars for projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, will add five zero-emission fuel cell buses to the agency's fleet and support upgrading a heavy duty fueling station for the buses that will use electricity and renewable energy to generate clean hydrogen, according to SunLine.
The buses will operate daily on two routes from Indio to the Mecca/Oasis area, fulfilling a state goal to invest in disadvantaged communities. SunLine officials also say that 12 months of the buses' performance data will be used to further commercialization of fuel cell technology.
``We are honored to be the recipient of this pilot project that will deploy new zero-emission buses for our community and allow us to upgrade our existing hydrogen infrastructure for fueling the proposed fuel cell fleet as well as public use,'' said Lauren Skiver, SunLine CEO and general manager.
``SunLine has a longstanding commitment to the environment with our clean fuels fleet -- which helps us do our part to ensure our natural resources are preserved for future generations.''
The agency is holding a Friday ceremony celebrating the grant, to be attended by state Sen. Jeff Stone, R-La Quinta, Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D- Coachella, California Air Resources Board member Barbara Riordan and representatives from New Flyer and Hydrogenics, the companies contracted to
build the new buses and upgrade the hydrogen refueling station.
``This project represents an important step toward commercializing both heavy-duty zero-emission fuel cell vehicles and clean, renewable hydrogen fuel,'' said California Air Resources Board chairman Mary D. Nichols. ``Fuel cell vehicles are part of a comprehensive portfolio needed to achieve California's long-term greenhouse gas reduction goals, and this project furthers this technology advancement while providing much needed air quality benefits to communities in the Coachella Valley.''
Friday's event will also include a kick off of Earth Day weekend.
As part of the festivities, SunLine will also be offering free rides on Saturday for those who print Earth Day Free Ride coupons off of www.sunline.org. Coupons must be printed in advance to qualify for the free rides.