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Two Southeast Michigan school districts drive into electric school bus era

Roseville electric school bus with driver (Jennifer Lewis) holding chargerStudents in Ann Arbor and Roseville are the latest to experience a revolution in transportation.

The districts, in collaboration with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and DTE Energy Co., have added electric school buses to their fleets — and their classroom curriculums.

The six buses are the last of 17 that were partially funded by EGLE grants under the Fuel Transformation Program, which disburses Volkswagen settlement money allocated to Michigan. Other school districts that received grants to offset the price of electric buses and now have them as part of their fleets are Gaylord, Kalamazoo, Oxford, Three Rivers and Zeeland. A total of $4.2 million was provided by EGLE.

"EGLE is proud to partner with DTE and the Roseville and Ann Arbor school districts on this transformative initiative that offers a glimpse into the future of school bus transportation," said Liesl Clark, EGLE director. "The grants we issued for these buses not only are a forward-thinking solution to improving air quality for students and their communities, but are also an important piece in moving the state toward the goal set by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of carbon neutrality by 2050."

As the Saf-T-Liner® C2 Jouley electric buses are fully integrated into the transportation plans of both districts, it is estimated that they will provide more than 40 percent in savings over time on fuel and maintenance compared to traditional diesel buses.

While many students are learning remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the electric buses are being used in different ways. Ann Arbor and Roseville have initially used the buses to deliver meals to students.

The buses will also provide valuable learning opportunities about zero-emission vehicles, battery technology and energy efficiency. At the same time, DTE will track the bus performance and how they might be used beyond shuttling students to and from school or extracurricular activities.

DTE will initiate a Vehicle to Grid Study that will provide valuable learnings on the effects of energy efficiency and the capabilities of the bus that are mutually beneficial for the school and the environment, such as the ability for the bus battery to provide energy to the school during a power outage. The study results also will be used to develop programs that further benefit the schools based on the EV bus capabilities.

To qualify for the EGLE grants, the districts had to replace a diesel fuel-powered vehicle with one that runs on batteries, which will improve the environment for students, school staff and the communities the buses serve. Contaminants from diesel exhaust include more than 40 substances listed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to have known adverse health impacts on humans.

Over their lifetime, the six buses used by Ann Arbor and Roseville are expected to save nearly 490 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which is equivalent to the amount of carbon consumed by more than 7,300 trees in 10 years.

Photo credit: DTE Energy

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