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GOING ELECTRIC Te VW settlement isn’t the only incentive out there for electric buses, especially


in environmentally conscious California. Shifting away from its allegiance to CNG, the Fremont district recently received approval to purchase about 20 new electric buses with funding from the Carl Moyer program, a state air quality initiative. Meanwhile, the utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is working with the district on charging infrastructure. “I believe we [California] will be the testing field for electric school buses, just as


we were for CNG,” said Ott, who received a Carl Moyer grant to obtain at least 10 new Blue Bird All American Electric and eight Blue Bird All American CNG buses by this spring. “It’s kind of like Walt Disney looking at his plans for Disneyland before it was built. Tere is an idea, a dream, implementation, and then we learn how it will work and how to make it better.” Ott said he hopes other states will follow California’s lead in prioritizing electric buses, and he thinks fleet managers should be more forward-looking in their deci- sion-making. “Folks in transportation don’t do so well with change. I say we need to embrace it,” Ott said. Te VW settlement can give districts a chance to get a few electric buses—for nothing out of pocket in California and New York—and test them out while debating future purchases, noted Gregor Hintler. He is U.S. director of product for the Mobility House, a company that promotes vehicle electrification by managing smart charging, vehicle-to-grid and other related technology for customers. Te VW settlement also motivates manufacturers to build electric buses, since


there’s more guarantee of a market, Hintler said. He recommended that districts should plan well in advance to get electric charging infrastructure in place, because that process involves multiple stakeholders, including the utility. “We’re really moving toward an electric future,” said Hintler. “In five to seven


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years, it will be a no-brainer. As a fleet manager, I shouldn’t be thinking about what is the cost of moving now. I should be thinking about what is the cost of not moving.”


PUTTING FAITH IN PROPANE While some see zero-emissions electric buses as the wave of the future, in the


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50 School Transportation News • JANUARY 2019


nearer term, other low-emissions fuels—including propane—may be a more realistic alternative. As Ryan Zic sees it, persuading districts to consider propane is akin to “getting them to understand that eating healthy doesn’t mean they have to eat kale.” Zic is school bus sales director for ROUSH CleanTech, which develops propane products— and more recently, CNG fuel technology. It also announced last spring that it is coming to market with an electric drive for medium-duty trucks. “With so many alternative fuels, you have to give up some or a lot of what you like about a traditional fuel,” Zic explained. “For example, CNG, EV and biodiesel are all more sustainable choices for the environment.” He said CNG requires expensive infrastructure and major shop upgrades. In comparison, EV has limited vehicle range and a drastically higher price tag, while biodiesel places a sensitivity and shelf- life on the fuel. “With propane, you can make an awesome environmental impact without those ‘kale-like’ limitations,” he added. A recent study by ROUSH and Blue Bird found that nearly 850 school districts nationwide are using about 14,000 Blue Bird Vision Propane buses, which are achieving fuel savings of up to 50 percent, compared to diesel. However, adopting the buses costs as much as $8,000 more per bus compared to diesel, the study said. In addition, the VW settlement may provide a boost for propane buses in some states. For example, Lafayette Parish, Louisiana schools have approval to buy 10


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