Reducing School Bus Pollution Improves Children’s Health

April 21, 2015 – ANN ARBOR – Use of clean fuels and updated pollution control measures in the school buses 25 million children ride every day could result in 14 million fewer absences from school a year, based on a study by the University of Michigan and the University of Washington entitled “Adopting Clean Fuels and Technologies on School Buses: Pollution and Health Impacts in Children.”  

In research believed to be the first to measure the individual impact on children of the federal mandate to reduce diesel emissions, researchers found improved health and less absenteeism, especially among asthmatic children.

A change to ultra low sulfur diesel fuel reduced a marker for inflammation in the lungs by 16 percent over the whole group, and 20-31 percent among children with asthma, depending on the severity of their disease.

“The national switch to cleaner diesel fuel and the adoption of clean air technologies on school buses lowered concentrations of airborne particles on buses by as much as 50 percent,” said Sara Adar, the study’s lead author and the John Searle Assistant Professor of Public Health at the U-M School of Public Health. “Importantly, our study now shows measurable health improvements from these interventions, too.

Although the study focused only on school children, Adar said it is easy to imagine similar benefits for other groups of people such as commuters, occupational drivers and people living in communities impacted by heavy diesel traffic.

The team’s research appears online in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s National Clean Diesel Campaign required the production of cleaner fuel and set stricter emissions standards for diesel vehicles purchased after 2006.

It also provided EPA-administered grant-based funding to retrofit, replace or repower older diesel engines, ranging from farm equipment to consumer haulers, and school buses to public transit vehicles. From 2008 to 2010, nearly 20,000 school buses were altered or replaced in effort to reduce the amount of particulate matter and nitrogen oxide released into the air.

The researchers followed 275 Washington state elementary children who rode buses to and from school, before and after their districts adopted cleaner fuels and technologies. Air pollution was measured during 597 trips on 188 school buses from 2005 to 2009.

Technicians went to the schools to perform monthly measurements to check lung function and inflammation, and child absenteeism from school was recorded.

Over the course of the four years, the bus fleet of two school districts was altered with special emissions devices or with the fuel used to power them. Some were fitted with diesel oxidation catalysts or closed crankcase ventilation systems, which are used to reduce tailpipe and engine emissions, respectively. All the buses switched to ultra low sulfur diesel and some used biodiesel. These fuels are projected to reduce particle generation by about 10-to-30 percent, the researchers say.

Children in the districts missed an average of 3.1 school days over nine months but there was an 8 percent lower risk of being absent in the previous month when riding a bus with ultra low sulfur diesel fuel. For those riding a bus that was fitted with a diesel oxidation catalyst, there was a 6 percent reduction in the risk of absenteeism.

Using these and other measurements, the researchers were able to extrapolate a 14 million day reduction in absenteeism for the nation’s bus-riding children if all vehicles were altered to reduce emissions.

“Our research also suggests that children riding buses with cleaner fuels and technologies may experience better lung development as compared to those riding dirtier buses,” Adar said. “This is consistent with recent findings from the Children’s Health Study in California, which reported more robust lung development in children with improvements in outdoor air quality.”

Sara Adar – school bus researcher UNIV of Michigan – Associate Professor of Epidemiology

Other authors: Jennifer D’Souza and Jordan Jahnke of the University of Michigan; Lianne Sheppard, Dr. Joel Kaufman, Dr. Teal Hallstrand, James Sullivan, Timothy Larson and L.J. Sally Liu of the University of Washington; and Mark Davey of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute.

Source: This Article is a summary of a study entitled “Adopting Clean Fuels and Technologies on School Buses: Pollution and Health Impacts in Children” done by the Univ. of Michigan written by Laurel Thomas and published on April 21, 2015 in Michigan News


Make New York’s School-Bus Fleet Eco-Friendly, Union-Staffed, and Cooperatively Run

September 17, 2017 – The pupil-transportation system in New York is, like most of the city’s byzantine public-transit network, a messy tangle of private and public interests, forever veering from one political, financial, or labor crisis to another. That’s why the embattled transit-workers union is pushing a road map for a new school-bus system that promises fairer contracts, greener technology, and less-frazzled families.

Hoping to overcome the city contracting system’s perennial labor conflicts, local bus drivers with TWU 100 are pressing the city to make school-bus service, long dominated by private bus corporations, more accountable to both workers and school communities through a union-led cooperative. Ideally, the pilot project would partner with the de Blasio administration’s coop development initiative to launch a labor-powered workplace. It could compete alongside the city’s numerous private vendors, but give the workers primary authority to negotiate contracts and compensation with the administration, compared to the ordinary contracting process. In the long run, the union’s vision is to gear up the industry as a whole with a more socially equitable, ecologically sustainable way of doing business.

Under the Bloomberg administration, school-bus drivers wrangled over the retention of longstanding union pay protections, while bridling under cost-cutting pressures. TWU 100 President John Samuelsen developed the cooperative model as an alternative for organizing a modern transit workplace, which would be truly governed by workers’ interests.  

Though city school-bus drivers are largely unionized, working conditions remain unstable and uneven across the region. In neighboring Westchester County, Samuelsen says, the union has struggled against low-road contractors: “Every time we made contractual gains…really improving workers’ lives. And non-union vendors would come around and win the bid and pull the rug out from underneath us, so we would have to start all over with a nonunion vendor. That situation made me realize that the way we were going to improve the lives [of drivers] is to take the profit motive out of the school bus industry.” Removing corporate-controlled vendors would “solidify the wages, benefits, and working conditions of school bus industry workers,” he argues, by putting the power “into the hands of the workers themselves.”  

Under the union’s vision, which would initially seek to drive some of the 15 city bus routes without a permanent provider, an independent governing board of worker-members would helm operations, from pay scales to pensions to long-term finances. There could also be a designated role for parents to participate as taxpaying stakeholders. While a separate executive and staff might be hired to handle everyday administrative functions, the cooperative would be inherently more democratic, Samuelsen says. With a labor-oriented decision-making process, workers themselves would decide on wages and working conditions “through a democratic process that would be something similar to collective bargaining, but they themselves are the owners.” 

Matt Berlin of ICA Group, a cooperative-development firm working with the union, says the process would afford workers more scope and responsibility than traditional three-way bargaining with the contractor, the city, and the union: “This would in a sense be a much more direct case where workers would say to the city, ‘Listen, you want us to get to East New York at 5:30 in the morning, drive a bus from there until 9:30 with a bunch of screaming kids on it…then drive the kids home, leave East New York at 6 pm and do the same thing tomorrow morning.… We want this much money to do that job.’” In complex negotiations, he adds, “What’s really transformative…is that the workers themselves [can raise] other economic realities” beyond wages, giving a fairer assessment of the coop’s additional business needs, such as investments in technology and administration.  

Though a cooperative of this kind would be a nationwide first, cultural interest in coops has surged in recent years. Across New York City, since the 2007 crash created a confluence of mass joblessness and public momentum for alternative economic models, dozens of local cooperatives have sprouted up, many with support from the city’s coop-incubator program; the ventures range from tiny green housecleaning services to a major unionized home health-aide service provider.  

Nationwide, according to available statistics, roughly 300 cooperative workplaces—defined as worker-owned and -managed companies—employ an estimated 7,000 workers, though mostly in small-scale firms. The union’s envisioned school bus cooperative would approach a scale more typically seen in Spain, with its manufacturing and service mega-coop Mondragon, or Israel’s public bus-transit cooperatives.  

In addition to changing the workplace climate, a cooperative might change the actual climate as well. The union is pushing a “greenbelt plan” to introduce the city’s first eco-friendly school-bus fleet, running on zero-emissions electric power to reduce both the city’s carbon footprint as well as the local smog that is a major public-health threat for local youth (particularly for asthmatic gradeschoolers who wait twice a day amid dirty diesel fumes at the school bus stop).

According to Columbia University researchers, converting fossil fuel–burning buses to electric vehicles would lead to a decline in emissions across the city by about 500,000 tons of carbon per year, amounting to about “$39,000 annual savings associated with [reduced fuel use and maintenance]” over 12 years, which would “more than offsets the higher cost of electric buses.” Converting the entire local bus fleet “translates to roughly $100 per New York City resident of health care savings per year.” Though the “greenbelt” program would contribute just a fraction of that, it would blaze a trail for a competitive clean-transport company competing alongside smog-belching corporate bus operators.

Other cities have gone electric with local transit networks in recent years, and a few pilot projects for school-bus-fleet conversion are underway in Massachusetts, California, and one bus company in Minnesota that is partnering with local green electricity coops. New York’s green-union coop could go even further to bridge progressive environmental, labor, and entrepreneurial goals, and, for the labor movement, it would show that workers pioneer the pathway to sustainable public transit.

Still, Samuel believes the cooperative model could be scaled to any community’s public-transit system. The difference would be that, instead of letting profit motives lead, “these workers would control their own destiny, and the entire profits…would go into the pockets of the workers. There would be no boss there as the middle man earning a profit…. It’s a tremendous amount of freedom and flexibility that these worker-owners would have in running the day to day affairs of the [coop].”

In many communities, struggling school districts increasingly resort to outsourcing and subcontracting to cheapen labor costs. The budding bus-cooperative concept, founded with workers’ and community’s interests as its bottom line, could help steer New York onto the economic high road.

Source:  This Article was written by Michelle Chen and published in The Nation on September 17, 2017.You can follow Mrs. Chen on Twitter.

Cost Analysis of New York City Transit Buses Going All Electric

March 22, 2018 – note – The blog post is a synopsis of Mr. Aber’s findings from his report entitled “Electric Bus Analysis for New York City Transit.”  This research was done as an independent study project for NYC Transit.  Although the report is based on transit buses, it is a great analog as to the benefits of New York City transitioning its school bus fleet to zero-emissions all electric school buses.  Both transit and school bus are the same category of vehicle and have been mainly powered by diesel engines.

The Blog Post

New York City Transit is considering adding electric buses to its fleet. The purchase price of electric buses is higher than for diesel buses, but using them would reduce harmful emissions. So is this a good idea?

New York City Transit and MTA Bus have a combined fleet of about 5,700 buses, with annual ridership of around 800 million rides per year. The current fleet of buses includes diesel, hybrid diesel, and CNG (compressed natural gas) buses. Note: But the Transit fleet is dwarfed by the New York City school bus fleet.  The City does not own any buses but contracts for over 10,000 school buses a year and spends more than $1.3 billion a year on school bus contracts. It is estimated that over 2 million school children ride on school buses in New York City annually.

As part of OneNYC, Mayor Bill de Blasio has set an aggressive objective to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change to 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. That may seem like a long way off, but cutting greenhouse gases by 80 percent in the face of growing demand and a growing population is a challenging task. The city has a limited number of tools at its disposal, and the primary focus is on reducing emissions associated with buildings. However, the city does not control public transportation and the associated emissions. Those emissions should be addressed as well.

The MTA owns the bus and subway systems in New York City. Public transportation is more efficient than individual car ownership: By riding the buses and subways, New York City residents and visitors are helping to reduce the city’s emissions. The MTA has made many investments that have resulted in improved service, resulting in growth in ridership. For example, subway ridership reached a 65-year high in 2014, and that was exceeded in 2015. The MTA has also been making investments in various sustainability projects. The result of the investments and the increased ridership is an overall reduction in greenhouse gases by the MTA and for the city.

Greenhouse Gases and Electric Buses

Changing the entire fleet to all electric buses would result in a net reduction of greenhouse gas emissions within the city limits of over 500,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent, assuming the current mix of power generation in New York City and Westchester County. That’s enough CO2e to make a fractional impact on the country’s 2025 GHG commitments made in Paris. Note: The impact of transitioning school buses to electric would be even greater as there are approximately 9 times the number of school buses in NY vs transit buses.  New York City along would save about 1.5 million metric tons of C02 equivalent.

Comparison of greenhouse gas emissions for electric buses vs. the current fleet of buses used by New York City.

These results are consistent with those published by the Electric Power Research Institute in conjunction with the NRDC. Variations are possible based on bus manufacturer, bus routes, number of passengers and seasonal impacts to battery life, but the overall and net results will not change appreciably.

What about the Cost?

The cost of a diesel bus can range from roughly $450,000 to $750,000 depending on the characteristics of the bus. While the cost differential varies, this analysis assumes that electric buses cost on average $300,000 more. Looking at differences in bus cost and in operating costs over the 12-year life of a bus, the $39,000 annual savings associated with fuel cost (diesel or CNG vs. electricity) and bus maintenance cost more than offsets the higher cost of electric buses. And that does not include potential health care cost benefits (see below). Note:  The cost differential between a convention type C or D school buses is also about $300,000 but the differential between type A and B school buses are less.  This cost difference can be lowered by Federal grants under the DERA program and New York State’s Department of Energy Research and Development Agency (NYSERDA) has an electric vehicle voucher program that pays up to 80% of the cost differential at the time of purchase.  Click for a list of the cost of electric schools under the NYSERDA voucher program.

Lifetime cost of electric buses vs. diesel buses in U.S.$ excluding cost savings associated with health benefits.

The up-front additional investment in the electric bus provides a positive NPV (net present value), but there is a long payback period (over 7 years) excluding health care cost benefits.

Health Benefits

The use of electric buses would reduce the particulate emissions from diesel-fueled buses and offer an extra benefit in reducing health care costs associated with heart and lung diseases. The savings would come from reduced hospital costs and less time missed at work.

The projected annual cost benefit to New York City from making the switch to electric is approximately $150,000 per bus per year, based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s  Diesel Emissions Quantifier tool. This translates to roughly $100 per New York City resident of health care savings per year, if the entire fleet is converted to all-electric. With the addition of the health benefits to the analysis, the net present value improves to $1.1M, with a healthy payback of about 2 years.

Lifetime cost of electric buses vs. diesel buses in U.S.$ including cost savings associated with health benefits.

Experience in other Cities

Many other cities around the world have begun exploring the implementation of electric buses. The Antelope Valley Transit Authority in northern Los Angeles is planning to convert its entire fleet of 85 buses to all-electric, the first transit authority in the country to convert completely. Currently, they are seeing a savings of $46,000 per bus per year from operations.

Vienna wants to be a leader in the green movement and has decided to eliminate greenhouse gases in its historic central district as a first step. They have replaced all 12 buses on the inner city route to electric buses.

London has purchased several electric double-decker buses. These buses use slow charging technology, which has been installed in the bus parking facility, where charging takes about four hours and occurs overnight. According to Transport for London, the double-decker buses augment an electric fleet of 22 single-deck buses. So there is quite a bit of experience building in many cities, and it would make sense for New York City to consider its options.

So what’s the Drawback? 

Why hasn’t New York City made the switch already? There are several reasons to proceed cautiously. First, the electric bus does have a higher initial purchase price. This impacts the MTA’s capital budget, which is distinct from the operating budget. The issue can be worked out, but it’s more complex than it seems.

Second, electric buses have not been around for long. Given that the lifetime of a bus is about 12 years, and that batteries can degrade over time with constant charging and discharging, the lifetime performance of electric bus batteries is uncertain. So the city would be prudent to proceed cautiously.

New York City should take the first steps towards purchasing electric buses, and in fact they have. The financial case closes sufficiently, and the health benefits and greenhouse gas reductions are both compelling. The city ran a two-month pilot back in 2013, but they should consider running pilots with at least two vendors for at least a year each to gain a more in-depth understanding of electric bus operations as well as the impacts of seasonality, specifically on battery operation. Investigation of different bus manufacturers should also include learning from the experience of other cities. Note:  The MTA has taken this advice and is running another pilot program that started in January of 2018 with 5 Proterra buses and 5 New Flyer buses.

The decision to make the transition to electric buses should include input from various constituents, an in-depth understanding of political considerations, and an understanding of sources of financing. Adoption of these recommendations should also include a detailed operational analysis to maintain the high-quality level of service currently provided by the city.  By taking these steps, the city will continue to demonstrate transit leadership both in the United States as well as around the globe.

Source: Going Electric Adds up to a Good Idea for NYC Buses” was written by Judah Aber and published Columbia University’s Earth Institute website State of the Planet on May 31, 2016.  Judah Aber is a May 2016 graduate of the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program. 

All-Electric Bus Touted as Healthier for Kids, Better for Environment

Ohio is in line for a share of a multibillion-dollar settlement related to diesel emissions, and local officials have their eyes on a way to spend some of the money: all-electric buses.

City and school district officials hosted an event Friday that is part of a demonstration tour of the eLion all-electric bus. The manufacturer, Lion Bus of Canada, is working with environmental groups to urge school districts to add the buses to their fleets.

E Lion 360 Bus

The vehicle itself looks like any other school bus with the notable absence of a tailpipe.

“Let’s face it: Diesel pollution is bad for the environment, bad for public health and bad for our children,” said Susan Mudd, senior policy advocate for the Environmental Law & Policy Center, a co-sponsor of the event. “Children, whose lungs are still developing, are among the most vulnerable to the many negative direct effects of direct exposure to diesel pollution.”

Ohio in line for more than $70 million in proceeds from multistate settlements with Volkswagen related to the automaker’s diesel vehicles being caught cheating on emissions testing. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is overseeing how the money will be spent.

Richard Hicks, director of environmental protection for Columbus Public Health, said the shift to all-electric business would be a step toward reducing childhood asthma and other health conditions related to air pollution.

The Columbus event was the final stop on a week-long Midwestern tour to promote the idea of using the settlement money for all-electric buses.

The demonstration began at Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center, which is where Columbus City Schools’ buses are based. The school district has 856 buses in its fleet, of which six are diesel-electric hybrids.

A diesel bus has a price range of roughly $100,000 to $150,000. An all-electric bus often costs more than $200,000. The actual costs vary based on add-ons, bulk-buying discounts and many other factors.

“It’s the most efficient technology you’ll find for the school bus industry,” said Cyril Gauchet, a representative from the Quebec provincial government, who was there to support Lion Bus. The bus company is based in the Montreal area.

That said, there are other technologies that also market themselves as a cleaner option for schools. These include buses that run on compressed natural gas and propane, among others.

Lion Bus is one of several manufacturers that make or plan to make all-electric buses.

As is often the case with all-electric vehicles, much of the early adoption has happened in California, according to School Bus Fleet magazine. The buses have only been available for about two years, and the Volkswagen money is an opportunity to jumpstart wider adoption.

This Article was written by Dan Gearino and published in The Columbus Dispatch on June 23, 2017.  You can email Dan at dgearino@dispatch.comor on Twitter @dangearino.

Diesel Engines and Public Health

With mounting evidence that diesel exhaust poses major health hazards, reducing diesel pollution has become a public priority.

Health Impacts of Diesel Pollution

Diesel-powered vehicles and equipment account for nearly half of all nitrogen oxides (NOx) and more than two-thirds of all particulate matter (PM) emissions from US transportation sources.

Particulate matter or soot is created during the incomplete combustion of diesel fuel. Its composition often includes hundreds of chemical elements, including sulfates, ammonium, nitrates, elemental carbon, condensed organic compounds, and even carcinogenic compounds and heavy metals such as arsenic, selenium, cadmium and zinc.¹ Though just a fraction of the width of a human hair, particulate matter varies in size from coarse particulates (less than 10 microns in diameter) to fine particulates (less than 2.5 microns) to ultrafine particulates (less than 0.1 microns). Ultrafine particulates, which are small enough to penetrate the cells of the lungs, make up 80-95% of diesel soot pollution.

Particulate matter irritates the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, contributing to respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses and even premature death. Although everyone is susceptible to diesel soot pollution, children, the elderly, and individuals with preexisting respiratory conditions are the most vulnerable. Researchers estimate that, nationwide, tens of thousands of people die prematurely each year as a result of particulate pollution. Diesel engines contribute to the problem by releasing particulates directly into the air and by emitting nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides, which transform into “secondary” particulates in the atmosphere.

Diesel emissions of nitrogen oxides contribute to the formation of ground level ozone, which irritates the respiratory system, causing coughing, choking, and reduced lung capacity. Ground level ozone pollution, formed when nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbon emissions combine in the presence of sunlight, presents a hazard for both healthy adults and individuals suffering from respiratory problems. Urban ozone pollution has been linked to increased hospital admissions for respiratory problems such as asthma, even at levels below the federal standards for ozone.

Diesel exhaust has been classified a potential human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Exposure to high levels of diesel exhaust has been shown to cause lung tumors in rats, and studies of humans routinely exposed to diesel fumes indicate a greater risk of lung cancer. For example, occupational health studies of railroad, dock, trucking, and bus garage workers exposed to high levels of diesel exhaust over many years consistently demonstrate a 20 to 50 percent increase in the risk of lung cancer or mortality.²

Diesel Pollution and Public Health Solutions

The public-health problems associated with diesel emissions have intensified efforts to develop viable solutions for reducing these emissions. Both federal and state governments have taken steps to reduce diesel emissions, but more work needs to be done.

Cleaner Fuels – The EPA has adopted more stringent fuel standards to reduce the amount of sulfur allowed in diesel fuel. These requirements went into effect in late 2006 for on-road diesel vehicles, while off-road diesel fuel used in construction equipment and trains will take effect over the next five years. Lower sulfur diesel fuel allows the use of advanced emission control technologies, which when combined, can reduce emissions more than 85 percent. The fuel used in ships visiting our port cities, however, is not subject to EPA’s regulation and remains a significant source of diesel pollution.

New Engine Standards – New engine standards for diesel cars, trucks and heavy equipment have traditionally lagged far behind those for gasoline powered vehicles. For example, diesel construction equipment faced no emissions standards as late as 1996. With mounting pressure to clean-up diesel engines, the EPA has adopted standards for both heavy-duty trucks and off-road construction equipment and more recently for marine vessels and trains, which will phase in over the coming decade. Under current regulations, passenger cars and trucks are subject to the same emission standards regardless of the fuel they use.

Retrofitting – New engine standards only apply to the equipment in the dealer showrooms, not to the diesel engines that are already in operation. The combination of lagging emission standards and durability of diesel engines means there are many high polluting diesel trucks, buses, and off-road equipment that will continue to operate well in to the future. Retrofitting these diesel vehicles and equipment with advanced emission control devices can effectively reduce harmful tailpipe emissions.

With millions of diesel engines in operation throughout the US, there is much more to be done to clean-up the existing fleet.

Faced with more stringent federal and state regulatory measures, diesel technology has advanced rapidly in recent years. Some diesel passenger cars are now starting to meet California’s strict tailpipe standards, with more expected in the future. As vehicles equipped with advanced diesel emissions controls enter the market place, it will be important to ensure that emission levels are maintained throughout the life of the vehicle through periodic testing.

1. Particulate Matter (TSP and PM-10) in Minnesota. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. December 1997.

2. Health Assessment Document for Diesel Engine Exhaust. National Center for Environmental Assessment, Office of Research and Development, US EPA. Washington D.C. May 2002. page 9-11. EPA/600/8-90/057F

Source: This Article was published by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

California School District Orders 2 GreenPower Electric School Buses

April 6, 2018 — The Rialto Unified School District will soon add a pair of electric school buses from GreenPower to its fleet.

The district, located in Southern California’s San Bernardino County, is tapping in to regional air quality grant funding for the purchase of two Synapse 72 all-electric buses.

Green Power School Bus Side View

“The Rialto Unified School District is excited to add alternative fuel vehicles to our fleet,” said Mohammad Z. Islam, associate superintendent of business services. “Our partnership with GreenPower and with the South Coast Air Quality Management District, who provided grant funding, will enable our district to serve our students’ needs in an environmentally friendly manner.”

Rialto operates a fleet of 68 school buses, transporting students to and from 29 schools.

The district ordered the new GreenPower electric models through School Bus Sales of California. GreenPower said it expects to deliver the buses this summer.

“There is an opportunity to accelerate Rialto’s electrification strategy with deployments of GreenPower’s Synapse 72 school bus,” said Brendan Riley, president of the electric bus OEM. “This is a strategic win for GreenPower as our new Los Angeles sales office is located near the Rialto Unified School District, so we’ll be able to show customers our products in action.”

Source: This Article was written by Executive Editor Thomas McMahon of School Bus Fleet News and published on February 20, 2018.

Minnesota District to get Midwest’s First Electric School Bus this Fall

July 11, 2017 – The first electric school bus in the Midwest will begin transporting students in a suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul Minnesota school district this fall.

Unveiled last week, the 72-passenger bus represents a collaborative effort by the wholesale electric service provider Great River Energy, the electric cooperative Dakota Electric Association and Schmitty & Sons Bus Co. They shared the cost of the bus equally.

“We think it represents the future of school buses,” said David Ranallo, manager of marketing and member services at Great River Energy. “It’s like what our partner Schmitty & Sons has said — this is everything we hoped for in the future of school buses and it’s here today.”

Massachusetts last year launched a pilot of electric buses at four school districts, and California has a growing number serving its many districts. The Midwest partnership’s bus will be in the Lakeville Independent School District 194, which serves more than 10,800 students in Dakota and Scott counties south of the Twin Cities.

Built by Canada-based Lion Electric Co., the five-battery bus has a range of 100 miles, well above the 66-mile average school buses travel daily in the United States.

ELion Electric School Buses

“We’re excited to bring this innovative technology to the community and pilot it, gather information and prove it can work in a cold climate,” said Jane Siebenaler, Dakota Electric’s business account executive.

The bus costs $325,000, while a typical diesel school bus costs roughly a third of that, Ranallo said. However, operating costs are $12,000 less annually and the bus brings other associated benefits, from no carbon emissions to greater safety and comfort, he added.

“It’s hard to compare — it’s not really apples to apples,” Ranallo said. “There are so many innovations that are in this electric bus that aren’t part of a standard diesel bus — things as simple as a composite roof so there’s not sections and doesn’t leak and rust in the future. There’s a built-in trash can, better ergonomics, improved safety.”

The bus will be charged overnight at Schmitty & Sons when electric rates are lower. And since the bus company is part of Great River’s Revolt EV program, the vehicle will be fueled entirely by wind energy.

Great River Energy hopes to add two more buses at some point, Ranallo said. But first it wants to prove that the buses will work in Minnesota’s cold climate and will be able to handle the longer routes commonly found in the more rural areas of the state, he said.

Adding more electric school buses will be partly predicated on receiving money from the Volkswagen settlement agreement that will bring $47 million to Minnesota over the next decade, he said. A portion of that money could be used for electric buses. Clean energy groups throughout the Midwest — as well as several utilities — have been advocating the use of Volkswagen settlement funds for electric school buses.

“We’re really depending on Volkswagen funding,” Ranallo said. “It depends on getting that additional funding because the cost is much greater than a traditional diesel bus.”

Source: This Article was written by Frank Jossi and published in Energy News on July 11, 2017.  You can email Frank Jossi at

Minnesota Aims for Equitable Urban-Rural Split on VW Settlement Spending

April 6, 2018 – After rural lawmakers expressed concern about the distribution of settlement funds, Minnesota regulators propose a split based on where vehicles were registered.  Minnesota environmental regulators are proposing to split the state’s $47 million share of the Volkswagen settlement between urban and rural areas based on where the fraudulently marketed vehicles were registered.

A draft proposal released by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency last month earmarks 40 percent of the funds for buses, electric vehicle charging stations, and other emission-reducing investments in areas outside the Twin Cities.

The plan responds to concerns by rural lawmakers that their districts might be left out of the bounty. The agency’s assistant commissioner, David Thornton, said in conversations with state lawmakers so far, the urban-rural split hasn’t been questioned, but it’s unclear whether they’ll intervene.

State Sen. Andrew Mathews, a Republican from central Minnesota, called the plan “acceptable” but is also pushing a bill that would give legislative oversight of the settlement, which for now is in the hands of regulators.

“A number of legislators remain concerned and want the $47 million to get used in an impactful way and … not get thrown at projects that are cool or popular at the moment,” Matthews said.

The money comes because of a consent decree reached in 2016 between the U.S. Department of Justice and Volkswagen over Clean Air Act violations. Each state’s share of the funding for pollution mitigation based on the number of diesel VW vehicles in their state. The Pollution Control Agency held 13 public meetings and accepted online suggestions for how to spend the money.

“We saw quite a bit of interest in electric vehicles,” Thornton said.

The settlement should benefit rural Minnesota as the state uses the money to help buy electric charging stations. More residents will likely buy EVs once more stations exist in outstate areas, Thornton said.

“The VW settlement could be a big leap forward because we don’t have any money available or dedicated to charging infrastructure and the biggest gaps are in Greater Minnesota,” he said.

The agency’s draft report covers $11.75 million in spending for the first two years of the decade-long program. Half the settlement, $23.5 million, will be distributed between 2020-2023, with the final quarter of the money to be spent from 2024-2027.

“We staggered the funding on purpose because we’re pretty sure once we get into this we will have wished we did something differently and we’ll want to improve things,” Thornton said. More technologies may be available in the future, particularly when it comes to heavy-duty electric trucks. Only a handful are for sale today, but that will change as the market grows and prices decline, he said.

The draft report splits funding into five grant categories. The largest amount, 35 percent, will be allocated for on-road heavy-duty trucks. Twenty percent will go to replace school buses running on electricity, propane, natural gas or diesel. The following categories each receive 15 percent of the funding: Charging stations; heavy-duty electric vehicles such as buses, trucks and airport equipment; and clean heavy duty off-road equipment that could include ferries, tugs, and forklifts.

The grants will be available to government agencies and private businesses. The agency estimates the money can help buy 182 school buses, 137 trucks and transit buses, 63 charging stations, 26 heavy-duty electric vehicles and 13 heavy duty off-road vehicles.

While feedback on electric buses was favorable, Thornton said transit systems and school districts will have to run the numbers to determine if the higher upfront cost will pay for itself in lower operating, fuel and maintenance charges. The PCA spoke with representatives of Metro Transit in the Twin Cities and Duluth Transit Authority, which both expressed interest in vying for money from the settlement to purchase electric buses. Both transit agencies have plans to introduce electric buses this summer.

Heath Hickok, director of marketing at the Duluth Transit Authority, called its recent purchase of the seven electric buses “a game changer” for the city. It used federal funds to buy the Proterra buses, which cost almost twice as much standard city buses, he said.

The new models, however, have a carbon fiber exterior and are expected to last eight years longer than diesel buses and have lower operating costs, Hickok said.

Great River Energy, a generation and transmission cooperative with members in rural Minnesota, recently worked with members to add fast-charging stations along a corridor from Interstate 35 to Highway 61 and the North Shore. It hopes the settlement money can help build out charging stations on other highly traveled highways in the state, he said.

“We believe this settlement funding will be awesome and allow us to work with our members on electrifying these corridors around the state,” Great River Energy spokesman David Ranallo said.

Co-ops may own and operate the chargers, he said, but it makes more sense to work with a charging company. Once people start seeing more EV charging stations, Ranallo said, they will become more comfortable with the idea of owning one.

Electric school buses are another opportunity. The utility partnered with a suburban school district on an electric school bus. “We’re seeing all the major school bus manufacturers get into electric school buses,” he said.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is holding meetings and seeking comments on the report this month.

Source: This Article was written by Frank Jossi for Energy News and published on March 16, 2018. You can email Frank Jossi at

BYD and New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority Complete a Successful Pilot of BYD All-Eletric Transit Bus

January 8, 2014BYD and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) have concluded a pilot test on a BYD 40-foot, zero-emissions, battery-electric bus. The test period was from Aug 25th to Oct 25th totaling two months in service and the final report data has been summarized for distribution. “The general purpose of the program was to evaluate how an electric bus could perform in New York City’s heavy traffic, whether the electric bus can meet the twin challenges of operating in the stop-and-go traffic of Manhattan while maintaining high levels of passenger comfort and operational performance,” said MTA’s spokesman Kevin Ortiz. The bus tested at MTA was supplied by BYD Motors, based out of Southern California, and offers a range of 140-155 miles average between charges. Charging is intended to only be completed at night during off peak hours to reduce unwanted demand on the grid, and takes only 3 to 4 hours to return to full capacity. BYD Motor’s President, Ms Stella Li stated that she was, “delighted to see the vision and leadership of the New York MTA” and believes “that electrified transport solutions will bring about not only an economic recovery for the region but also an environmental recovery – we are committed to supporting these great leaders.”

The testing was carried out on different routes throughout Manhattan, including M20, M42, M104, M98, M60 and Bx27. The total distance covered during the trial was 1,481 miles. The BYD all-electric bus “performed excellent” with an average battery consumption of 1.4 miles per % SOC, translating to over 140 miles per full charge in heavy traffic. The average speed of electric bus was ~4 miles per hour under Manhattan’s heavy traffic. After two months of running, the electric bus’s average battery duration was 0.3 hours per % SOC, translating to 30 hours of operation per full charge, as opposed to other competitors that require en route recharging every 2-3 hours during peak-rate times. These uninterrupted operational hours are more meaningful in a busy city like New York, as routes and speeds travelled tend to be short in distance but long in duration. When contrasted to Diesel bus technology, BYD’s electric buses are far more efficient in energy consumption because Diesel engines are still idling when in heavy or stopped traffic. “This test continues the MTA’s commitment to examine newer, cleaner and more efficient bus propulsion technologies,” said Darryl Irick, President of MTA Bus and SVP, MTA NYC Transit’s Department of Buses.

BYD Electric buses provide several advantages over conventionally powered buses;

  • Improved air quality and reduced green-house-gas (GHG) emissions.
  • BYD buses that are connected to power-interfaces can dispatch power back to the grid (bi-directionally) in case of an emergency or for optimized grid utility.
  • BYD buses do not have an internal combustion engine or transmission and many other conventional components, therefore much less has to be replaced or refurbished every year reducing maintenance costs (and labor) significantly.
  • Regenerative braking recovers braking energy, recharges batteries and reduces normal brake-pad wear and maintenance.
  • Expected operating-cost-per mile of an electric bus is ~$0.20 to $0.30, compared to $1.30 per mile on an equivalent diesel or natural-gas powered bus in New York.

In April of 2013, BYD was awarded a $12.1 million contract with California’s Long Beach Transit Authority to produce 10 zero-emissions, all-electric buses. Then in June, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced a contract with BYD for the manufacture and delivery of up to 25 of the same battery-electric buses. The contract is part of the county’s $30-million clean air bus technology pilot project. For more information on BYD and their other transport solutions in operation around the globe, please visit BYD on Facebook.

Source: This Article was published on BYD’s newsroom.

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