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Yellow school buses turn green.

HYBRID SCHOOL BUSES MAY NOT be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an innovative public district, but that is starting to change, due to the new Plug-In Hybrid Electric School Bus Project of Advanced Energy, a nonprofit corporation that creates environmental, economic and societal benefits through market-based approaches to energy.

"The School District of Manatee County in Bradenton, Fla., purchased the first two of the program's 19 hybrid buses for $225,000 each on March 9 as a member of Advanced Energy's buyers' consortium of school districts, state energy agencies and student transportation providers, making it the first district in the country to operate hybrid school buses. (It was the first district in AE's buyers' consortium to submit a purchase request.)

AE first brought environmental groups, school bus manufacturers, K12 district maintenance personnel, and hybrid systems integrators together in 2001 for a series of meetings to discuss the possibility of a hybrid bus project for K12 schools, says spokesperson Sharon Gladwell. After technical and business feasibility studies determined it would be a worthwhile enterprise, requests for proposals were issued to school bus manufacturers, and in 2002 leading school bus manufacturer IC Corporation was contracted to assemble the buses, which were subsequently outfitted with Enova Systems' proprietary Post Transmission Hybrid System.

Through the buyers' consortium, funding for the project is coming from a variety of sources, says AE hybrid program manager Ewan Pritchard, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, state education departments and the districts themselves.

The hybrid school buses look the same as regular buses but are powered with a charge depleting or plug-in system, which utilizes an advanced battery chemistry that provides stored energy drawn over the driving cycle following an overnight charge, thus optimizing fuel economy.

With child safety in mind, both buses feature Ground Fault Interrupting circuitry, where "the slightest nick in a high voltage line will completely disable all high voltage," says Gladwell.

Depending on the route, fuel economy for the hybrid buses is expected to improve by 70 to 100 percent, with an average of 12.7 miles to the gallon. Average miles per gallon for a regular school bus is 7.4, Pritchard states. The hybrid system can also reduce emissions by up to 90 percent.

"This provides a powerful example to our students and community about the need to take positive action when it comes to addressing our nation's energy and environmental challenges," says Roger Dearing, superintendent of the Manatee School District.

A proprietary GPS system called AWARE installed in the buses will allow school officials and AE engineers to track their exact location and performance as one bus will operate in the east side and the other in the west side of the district.

"This project provides operational benefits to school districts, while also providing the reduced emissions desired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a valuable return on investment to school boards," says Pritchard.

The Nazareth Area School District (Pa.), Wake County Public School System (N.C.) and Little Rock School District (Ark.) are among the other districts in 11 states that have purchased the remaining 17 buses, which they will receive over the next couple of months.

More information about the program is available at the project's Web site,


97% of principals and 95% of superintendents say student testing data can be helpful for improving educational leadership.

Source: Reality Check 2006
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Title Annotation:BRIEFINGS: News Update
Author:Miners, Zach
Publication:District Administration
Date:May 1, 2007
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