News Story

Flint Loses Out On $1.1 Million ‘Green Energy’ Buses — Now Wants $2.5 Million Version

Flint, a city where more than half the children live below the poverty level, lost out on a pair of $1.1 million electric buses that the federal stimulus program would have paid for when the “green technology” company making them went out of business. So now, the head of the Flint bus authority says they are trying to get a new hydrogen-powered bus that comes with a $2.5 million sticker price, more than eight times the cost of a traditional diesel bus.

Ed Benning, general manager of Flint’s Mass Transportation Authority, said in an email that MTA has been discussing purchasing as many as two hydrogen buses from UTC Energy in Connecticut. He said they hoped the $2.2 million stimulus grants could still be used.

Benning also said that MTA has a design-build contract for an alternative fuel facilty that will be built over the next 12 months and that the fueling facility would produce hydrogen for two vehicles and also provide fueling for compressed natural gas and propane vehicles.

“We have not ruled out electric as a possibility, but the weight of the vehicles and recharging requirements are a concern at this point,” Benning said.

He said MTA hasn’t had a bid put in for the hydrogen bus as of yet and that they could purchase a used hydrogen bus for as much as $1 million. A typical diesel bus costs about $300,000.

In September 2009, then-Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm trumpeted the state receiving $2.2 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to be spent on the “green” Flint buses as part of a new “energy economy for Michigan” that would create jobs.

Officials of Flint’s Mass Transportation Authority have said in the past that they hoped to have the two electric buses up and running as early as April 2009.

But Fisher Coachworks of Troy — the maker of the ‘green’ buses — went out of business, according to the Flint MTA and state of Michigan officials. The state will also have to write off a $1.6 million loan it gave Fisher Coachworks.

“I’m picking up the pieces and putting them back together,” said Benning, who was named general manager on May 26.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.