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10/16/2019 - Some Other “Green Wheels” On the Near Horizon: Town Will Examine Potential of Electric School Buses

The EV future isn’t just about individual passenger vehicles. New this year at Fairfield’s Green Wheels Expo was an electric school bus from the City of White Plains (N.Y.), manufactured by the Lion Electric Company and operated by National Express Transit – offering kids and their parents a close-up look at the fast-approaching future of school transportation free of unhealthful diesel emissions.

The Sustainable Fairfield Task Force has initiated discussions with the Town regarding a transition to electric school buses.  The Town is working on collecting data and costs for analysis and use by decision-makers.  As an initial step, on Oct. 10, the Town publicly posted an 
RFP for a contractor to provide two electric buses for student transportation, with responses due on Nov. 7.  Interested residents can view the RFP at 
https://tinyurl.com/yyuo796o. For future updates, please visit https://www.fairfieldct.org/sftf

Awareness is growing that diesel bus fumes expose riders – school children, first and foremost – to a broad range of toxic compounds, many of them carcinogenic.  The emissions also are clearly related to the incidence and severity of childhood asthma. But electric buses produce no toxic fumes nor greenhouse gases – offering both an environmental as well as a health benefit.

Electric buses do cost more upfront.  But electric buses are considerably cheaper to operate due to much more efficient engines and greatly reduced maintenance, compared with diesel buses.  And there are incentives to overcome the higher capital cost, resulting in a favorable life cycle cost.

The “smart grid”:  As The New York Times pointed out in a recent article (https://tinyurl.com/ybwugz97), White Plains was able to cover a significant part of its cost via an innovative agreement with local utility Con Ed, which could be a model for other school districts looking to buy electric buses.

In return for a cash grant from the utility, Con Ed got the right to use the buses to help power the grid when school is out.  In the summer, the buses are plugged into the grid and used to store surplus electricity and discharge it when it’s needed most, an arrangement that reduces costs and makes it easier for the utility to build generation sources that produce power intermittently, such as wind and solar.