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Howard County to offer first gasoline-free buses in Maryland

Thursday - 8/15/2013, 9:30am  ET

COLUMBIA, Md. - With high gas prices, technology is making it possible to offer alternatives, and that's no different in Howard County.

Three all-electric buses could be unveiled in late 2014 that wouldn't require any gasoline at all -- the first of its kind in Maryland.

"We're purchasing them through a Federal Transit Administration grant. The buses would be inductively charged, comparable to an electric toothbrush you might have," says John Powell, administrator with the Howard County Office of Transportation.

Howard County will use a $2.7 million grant to purchase three buses at a cost of $800,000 a piece. It will also purchase a $250,000 charging station to be installed at The Mall in Columbia. The stations will be magnetic pads that charge the battery on the bus while it sits waiting for passengers through coils, rather than a plug-in outlet.

"Then the electric bus will continue on their route for about an hour, stop and get charged again in five or t10 minutes. They can conceivably operate nonstop, forever," says Powell.

"The buses will be quiet and there will be no emissions being created by that electric bus. No gasoline, no diesel, these are operating on batteries."

The buses will become the first gas-free buses anywhere in Maryland and will join a fleet of 50 hybrid electric-diesel Howard County Transit buses.

Bids are due from manufacturers in late August or early September and a final contract could be awarded this November. From then, Powell hopes the first buses could arrive within 12 months, although the project could spillover into early 2015.

"It's very exciting. You'll get a lot of energy. You'll get a lot of people coming from around the country. Probably people from all over the world because they like to see the new technology and see it in use," says Powell.

The buses will have capacity for 50 passengers.

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