“It’s our hope that Zūm’s in- novative approach to student transportation will provide a comprehensive solution that offers enhanced safety and care, driver efficiencies, and visibility into day-to-day operations.” Zūm entered its contract with the Oakland Unified School District last year just as classes went online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its routing technology and buses helped deliver district-made meals, computers and supplies to homes where students were unable to pick up meals from the school sites. This academic year, Zūm and the district are running flexi- ble operations as students return to in-person learning with masks and the possibilities that the ev- er-morphing virus could disrupt routines again. And they are plot- ting an all-electric vehicle future for the district by 2025, as well. “There needs to be a new shift

in how we do school transpor- tation, and I think that Zūm has stepped up to do the hybrid mod- el with electric school buses and smaller vehicles,” said Kimberly Raney, Oakland Unified’s director of procurement, warehouse and transportation business opera- tions. “We recognize that we have to individualize transportation the best we can while keeping it standardized.”

Other Ways TNCs Are Electrifying Transportation network com-

panies have other hurdles to overcome, as California targets ridesharing services for increased environmental protection regula- tion. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) reported that the TNCs it regulates are the fastest growing sector in the state’s com- mercial passenger vehicle fleets. CPUC is asking companies to

work with their drivers to adopt electric and zero-emission vehi-

cles for their rideshare services by 2030. Some companies in the school transportation niche are still mapping out how that will take shape in their driver com- munities. In August, TNC HopSkipDrive announced that it raised $25 mil- lion in investment funding from Energy Impact Partners, Keyframe Capital, FirstMark Capital, and 1776 Ventures. The company will use the funding for vehicle electrifica- tion projects and expansion into 30 new markets. Among HopSkipDrive’s

“CareDriver” vehicles, 19 per- cent are currently categorized as hybrid or electric powered. Over the next few years, the company reported that it will expand with transportation providers that offer electric vans and buses, as well as helping thousands of contracted CareDrivers transition to electric vehicles. Kango first partnered in 2017

with vehicle manufacturer Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrys- ler Automobiles) to provide its eligible rideshare drivers with access to plug-in Pacifica hybrid minivans. Now emerging from the pandemic, the company is evaluating what approach to fleet electrification makes the most sense for its business, drivers and the environment, Kango CEO Sara Schaer said. ALC Schools is not classified as

a TNC because it is not an on-de- mand service, so it is exempted from electrification requirements for rideshare, explained Me- gan Carey, the company’s chief development officer. Currently, hybrid vehicles are a small por- tion of the fleet available fleet to ALC. Yet Carey said the company continues to monitor the trend of electrifying fleets. Its national team manages regulations, re- quirements and guidelines as well as requests of district partners, she added ●

20 School Transportation News • SEPTEMBER 2021

Mandates and Money for Change

In August, the U.S. Senate passed the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure and Jobs Act, which would provide funding to modernize roads, bridges, railroads, airports, waterways, and broadband internet. Additionally, it aims to provide $5 billion over five years for zero- and low-emissions school buses via a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency clean school bus program. Half of the funds are dedicated for electric school bus projects, while the rest of the funding supports projects to increase school vehicles powered by biofuels, CNG, LNG and propane. The potential Senate funding is a

quarter of the amount Democrats in the House want for electric school buses. President Joe Biden also signed an

executive order setting 2030 as the target date for when half of all passen- ger vehicles sold in the U.S. must be emissions free. Most auto makers are aligned with that goal by producing more consumer-side electric vehicles and phasing out internal combustion engine vehicles by the next decade. Worn by years of extreme heat,

droughts, wildfires and hazy air quality, California already had requirements in place to become a leading state for zero-emission public policy. By 2035, all new passenger vehicles sold must be zero emissions, and five years earlier for all transportation network companies. All operations of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles must be zero emission by 2045, where feasible. The California Energy Commission School Bus Replacement Program is offering $94 million in grants to help public school districts replace old diesel school buses with electric vehicles. To date, at least 11 states have

adopted California’s low-emission and zero-emission vehicle standards for sell- ing a certain numbers of clean energy vehicles per year.

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