ROSEVILLE — Roseville Community Schools is going electric with its decision to add two new electric buses to its fleet.
Through a partnership with DTE Energy, Roseville is one of seven school districts across the state to receive a grant from the state of Michigan to purchase a pair of Thomas Built Jouley buses, as well as the necessary equipment to charge them.
“We look forward to deploying these electric buses in our district,” Superintendent John Kment said in a press release. “Not only will they help us reduce our carbon footprint, but they will also serve as great educational opportunities for our students. Our educators will use them to lead discussions on how we can all take steps to integrate cleaner energy into our daily lives.”
Joe Smith, the district’s coordinator of transportation and maintenance, said the new buses are a good purchase for the district, especially considering that only six other districts were selected.
“We’re always trying to look for opportunities for the district to save some cash and do some good. This measure will do both,” Smith said. “(These buses) are quieter, they’re cleaner and they’re less expensive in the long run.”
He said that the benefits also will include incorporation of electric technologies in certain classes at the high school and getting a potential head start on the push to encourage school buses to move toward electric engines.
“I feel like if we can put this to use, maybe our auto shop students can learn from it,” said Smith. “It results in cleaner air, and it could be a good start to the future since some states may be mandating the move to all electric in the near future. This also should save us money, because a diesel bus costs more to fuel and operate in the long term.”
A common concern about electric engines is their reliability in cold weather. Smith said the school district is taking these concerns into account.
“(Thomas) seemed confident their product was not going to have these issues,” he said. “I’m more worried about the charging stations being out in the weather where the buses will plug in. So, there have been discussions about a possible awning or bus port added to help both situations, pending our Board of Education approvals. We have reliable spare buses. In the event one of these pilot buses doesn’t start in the cold weather, it will not affect our dependability to get students to school.”
Smith said the impetus for the bus acquisitions began as the district was working with DTE on another grant for lower-emission buses.
“We just got approved for an (Environmental Protection Agency) grant after applying for a grant with two other districts for new buses,” he said. “We were talking about doing more, and DTE approached us to see if we could team up. The school board agreed to it. We got new buses, we got to help the environment and lower the (nitrogen oxide) emissions.”
He said that because of the grant, the district will not be spending more on the electric buses than it would on new diesel buses, which are currently needed anyway.
“The grant was for 70% of the cost of the vehicles, so we’re not paying more than a standard diesel that we usually drive, but with no bad emissions,” Smith said. “They’re speccing them out now, and we’re hoping to get them sometime in early 2020. We’re looking at getting two. It’s $340,000 per vehicle, but if we can get some more grant money and if it saves us money the way we think it will, we would be all for expanding the electrics in the district’s fleet.”
The district’s partners said it is a win-win situation with the addition of electric vehicles to school district bus fleets.
“We’re excited to help bring clean electric transportation to thousands of Michigan students,” Trevor F. Lauer, the president and chief operating officer, DTE Electric, said in a press release. “This partnership and grant fits well with our commitment to advancing both STEM education and Michigan’s clean energy future.”
“This is of significant importance because it is aimed at removing harmful emissions that expose school-aged children who utilize bus transportation,” Debra Swartz, pollution prevention program analyst for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, said in a press release. “We feel this young population is particularly vulnerable in that respect.”