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A new all-electric school bus picks up students in the Kings Canyon Unified School District. Credit: Motiv Power Systems

An all-electric school bus quietly began transporting students in the Escondido Union High School District on Thursday, part of a state-funded pilot program meant to introduce districts to the merits of bus fleets that are electric-powered, emissions-free and silent.

“When you come to a stop, it’s dead quiet,” said Robert Berkstresser, director of transportation for the Escondido Union district in north San Diego County.

The rollout of the 48-seat bus comes three weeks after a 32-seat electric school bus began picking up students in the Kings Canyon Unified School District. Both electric buses are demonstration projects funded in part by the California Air Resources Board in response to a regulatory push to reduce harmful diesel fuel emissions at schools. The focus on diesel-powered school buses, and the potentially deleterious practice of idling buses in front of schools, comes amidst research linking exposure to diesel engine exhaust with higher risks of cancer.

The electric buses are the first in the state built for potential mass production, said John Clements, a retired director of transportation for Kings Canyon Unified. Clements is now a consultant for the district as well as a substitute bus driver – he’s been behind the wheel of the district’s electric bus, built by Trans Tech Bus and Motiv Power Systems, on its first routes transporting students. On Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency presented Clements with an Environmental Champion award for his advocacy of zero-emission electric school buses. Clements is also involved in a project, funded by federal highway grant money, to build electric refrigerated lunch delivery trucks in the San Joaquin Valley.

The Escondido electric bus, built by TransPower, has a travel range of about 60 miles per charge, said Mike Simonson, assistant superintendent of business services for the Escondido Union High School District. “We’re looking at putting it on a route of less than 30 miles,” Simonson said. “We want to make sure everything works.”

Escondido’s bus was funded in part by the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District, Simonson said. After a trial period in Escondido, the bus will be tested in other San Diego County school districts.

In the lead-up to a Jan. 1 regulatory deadline for reducing diesel fuel emissions, school districts have been installing diesel particulate filters and retooling or replacing diesel fume-spewing vehicles as part of the air board’s Diesel Risk Reduction program. Clements said funds are still available for school districts to purchase alternative energy vehicles, including money from the air board and its Advanced Technology Demonstration Projects, which funded the electric school buses.

Other funding sources include California cap-and-trade carbon credit dollars, a portion of which is mandated for alternative transportation to help the environment in disadvantaged communities, Clements said. The Los Angeles Unified and Walnut Valley Unified school districts have received grants from the California Energy Commission to purchase hydrogen-powered school buses.  Zero-emission, electric-powered school buses are the next technological leap in saving energy and reducing the health risks caused by pollution, said Clements, who calls himself an electric school bus evangelist.

The electric bus, said Clements, is an example of what a school district can do to reduce emissions and save money by not purchasing petroleum products. “The whole purpose is to develop a couple of these electric buses and get them out where they can be seen,” Clements said. “Try them out – at no risk to another school district.”

 


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  1. sahargull 1 year ago1 year ago

    San Diego the charter bus San Diego is one of the best services for the people which they can easily travel from one place to another through this bus.

  2. Judith 3 years ago3 years ago

    Michael Simon, not Simonson

  3. Tressy Capps 3 years ago3 years ago

    Here in Etiwanda School District would love to see our mostly empty school bus fleet filled with actual riders. Currently only busing special ed since 2009 has resulted in traffic chaos. Natural gas, electric, all sound great! Having thousands of parents drive their kids to school vs. riding the bus creates so much pollution and mind numbing traffic. Most importantly, our kids would be safer on the bus http://www.schoolbusfacts.com

  4. Jane Meredith Adams 3 years ago3 years ago

    Good point, Steve. Newer diesel buses are much cleaner, and many districts have made the switch.

    Replies

    • el 3 years ago3 years ago

      The new diesel buses are awesome compared to the ones that were “new” when I was a kid, where merely standing behind one could asphyxiate even someone with normal lungs. The new ones also are cheaper to run. This has been a great value and a win-win investment that came out of various AQMD programs – especially because there was no way the districts could justify the steep up front costs.

  5. Steve Hansen 3 years ago3 years ago

    One problem with this story is that it does not differentiate between older and new diesel buses. New clean diesel buses, which reduce NOx and PM emissions by 98 percent over older buses, are very popular throughout the country. In addition, ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel has reduced sulfur by 97 percent. A 2012 analysis by the Clean Air Task Force compared 2012 CNG to 2012 clean diesel buses. They found new clean diesel technology is … Read More

    One problem with this story is that it does not differentiate between older and new diesel buses. New clean diesel buses, which reduce NOx and PM emissions by 98 percent over older buses, are very popular throughout the country.

    In addition, ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel has reduced sulfur by 97 percent.

    A 2012 analysis by the Clean Air Task Force compared 2012 CNG to 2012 clean diesel buses. They found new clean diesel technology is very competitive with CNG.

    2012 Clean Diesel Bus – 2012 CNG Bus Emissions Comparison To 2000
    Diesel Bus
    Nitrogen Oxide Particulate Matter Hydrocarbon
    (NOx) (PM) (HC)
    2012 Diesel Bus -94% -98% -89%
    2012 CNG Bus -80% -99% -100%
    (Source: Clean Air Task Force – “Clean Diesel versus CNG Buses: Cost, Air Quality, & Climate Impacts”)

    The analysis, entitled “Clean Diesel versus CNG Buses: Cost, Air Quality, & Climate Impacts” (2012) found: “Both new diesel and new CNG buses have significantly lower emissions of NOx, PM, and HC than the older diesel buses that they replace. According to EPA’s MOVES emissions model a 2012 model year diesel bus emits 94% less NOx per mile, 98% less PM, and 89% less HC than a model year 2000 (12-year old) diesel bus. A model year 2012 CNG bus emits 80% less NOx, 99% less PM, and 100% less HC than a model year 2000 diesel bus.

    Emissions Reductions Per 10 Replacement Buses (compared to 2000
    diesel buses)
    Nitrogen Oxide Particulate Matter Hydrocarbon
    2012 Diesel -4,953 kg -275 kg -429 kg
    2012 CNG -4,197 kg -279 kg -471 kg

    “Replacing 10 older diesel buses with new diesel buses will reduce annual NOx, PM, and HC emissions by 4,953 kg, 275 kg, and 421 kg respectively. Replacing 10 older diesel buses with new CNG buses will reduce annual NOx, PM, and HC emissions 4,197 kg, 279 kg, and 471 kg respectively. On a per-bus basis new CNG buses provide slightly greater PM and HC reductions, but lower NOx reductions,than new diesel buses.”

    As you can see, new clean diesel technology has made great strides in reducing emissions.

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