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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Todd Blackford, a bus technician for East Noble School Corp., checks out the battery on an electric school bus that made a stop in Fort Wayne on Tuesday.

  • Environmental advocates are on a four-state tour to show the benefits of using electric school buses.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 1:00 am

Buzz about electric bus

Environmental advocates make tour stop in city

FRANK GRAY | The Journal Gazette

A partnership of environmental groups brought an electric school bus to Fort Wayne on Tuesday as part of a four-state tour advocating for electric vehicles.

There are only about 100 electric school buses on the road today, and they cost about $300,000 each, three times what a regular school bus costs. But as the buses become more common, the price is expected to come down, said Susan Mudd, senior policy advocate for the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

Indiana is getting $41 million from a settlement with Volkswagen for cheating on emission tests, and the center wants the state to use that money to subsidize the cost of electric school buses. The center also hopes that electric utilities will help subsidize the cost of the buses.

While advocates say electric school buses will keep children from being exposed to diesel fumes, they also point out that electric buses can save between $5,000 and $12,000 a year each in fuel and maintenance costs.

The buses also accelerate better and are quieter, which means children on the bus are also quieter, Mudd said.

An electric bus can get 60 to 80 miles per charge, Mudd said, meaning one can make a day's run on one charge, or that they can be recharged during the school day if a bus route is longer.

The buses also have composite bodies that won't corrode.

Officials with the maker of the bus on the tour, Lion Bus of Quebec, said an electric bus should have a life span of 15 years, which exceeds standards in Indiana, which require that buses must be replaced within 12 years.

Electric buses are being used in pilot programs in three school districts in Massachusetts and some school systems in California.

Tom Bazow of Excursions Trailways, which operates in Indiana and Ohio, offering charters and school bus service for non-public schools, has four electric buses. Bazow likes the composite body, which won't rust.

The buses can't replace all buses at this point. As one school bus operator from DeKalb County noted, a diesel bus is required for long trips, such as taking bands to competitions in Indianapolis.

Meanwhile, other school bus makers, including Blue Bird and Cummings, are developing prototypes of electric buses, Mudd said.