By RANDALL WASZYNSKI
Bay Shore School District has incorporated four fully electric school buses into its daily transportation of its 6,600 students.
“We are now at a stage where all four buses are running daily on routes throughout Bay Shore,” said Richard Gallagher, the director of transportation for the district.
Each of the buses has been in operation to some capacity since the beginning of the school year, and all four are now running daily routes throughout Bay Shore. Gallagher said all district drivers have been trained to operate these buses.
The fully electric buses are 90-95 percent efficient, as opposed to the roughly 20 percent efficiency when considering internal-combustion-engine buses. Additionally, the electric buses will save roughly 60 percent in fueling and 80 percent in maintenance costs.
The district’s superintendent of schools, Joseph Bond, pointed out that the electric buses are the newest initiative towards meeting the district’s goal of energy efficiency and reducing the community’s carbon footprint. He said 6,000 gallons of diesel fuel and the accompanying 54 metric tons of CO2 emissions will be saved annually from the switch.
“You realize how important it is for us as a school district to model good citizenship for our kids,” Bond said. “Part of being a good citizen means being a good steward of our environment.”
Securing almost $700,000 of state grant aid and monetary assistance from Suffolk Transportation Service brought four Blue Bird buses to the district, each powered by a Cummins electric drivetrain, which is emission-free. Compared to diesel equipment, the combined Blue Bird and Cummins electric product requires significantly less maintenance.
Infrastructure upgrades were also required for charging stations, and each bus can travel up to 120 miles on one charge.
The bill for all four buses and the installment of charging stations totaled at $1.5 million. Although a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency covered 45 percent, Suffolk Transportation Service has paid the remainder of the cost. Suffolk Transportation was thanked for its investment in the school district and the environment.
“We have convinced ourselves this is the most practical, cleanest, safest, cost-efficient solution for moving our children,” said John Corrado, the president of Suffolk Transportation.
The EPA grant, powered by the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, for this particular project has been in talks since May of last year and was accepted in February of this year.
Walter Mugdan, the deputy administrator for Region 2 of the EPA, said that reducing this brand of air pollution has a significant health benefit for the community, including fewer hospitalizations, fewer missed days of work, fewer missed days of school for both teachers and students.
“Our kids spend a lot of time on the school buses, and buses spend a lot of time in our neighborhoods and schoolyards,” Mugdan said. “The school bus is genuinely a national symbol of safety, so it is imperative that the risks from the emissions be curbed as much as possible.”
Mugdan said the DERA law has reduced emissions immensely since being passed in 2008, citing a reduction of 15,500 tons of particulate matter, 18,000 tons of smog-forming hydrocarbons, 473,000 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides, and more than 5 million tons of CO2. The law has awarded $629 million in funding to replace or retrofit over 67,000 diesel engines nationwide.
Kuba Szczypiorski, the director for alternative fuels for Blue Bird, applauded the school district and Suffolk Transportation’s initiative to pursue the EPA funds and the forward-thinking of these two organizations.
“[We] look forward to a long relationship making electrification a standard on Long Island,” he said, adding that Blue Bird has been researching and trialing for decades to build a better, cleaner bus. “We have a history of designing and implementing new tech-industry-leading transportation solutions with a focus on clean technology, allowing districts to achieve a lower carbon footprint at a more competitive cost per bus.”
The company first began delving into the idea of an electric bus in the 1990s, though the technology was not viable then.
“The writing was on the wall for what kind of company Blue Bird wanted to become, and they really understood what the market would demand so many years in the future,” Szczypiorski said.
Julie Ferber, the vice president for electrified power for Cummins, said that diesel has long been the answer for most customers and markets based on the job needs as well as the costs and efficiency purposes.
“But now the world is changing, and we see a future where other technologies are really coming into the fold. Today these changes are primarily driven by an evolution of the technology itself, a regulatory environment focused on powering a more sustainable world, and customers who are committed to investing in their community’s future.” n