Five students from a Peace and Conflict Studies class at Naperville Central High School researched electric buses from various angles. They told the school board about the potential health benefits, the grants available to mitigate the costs, and the long-term financial benefits. They also provided examples of surrounding districts currently investing in electric buses.
“Through conversations with experts and subsequent research, it is evident that electric buses are vital to our future,” student Emma Orend said. “We must implement them into our school district’s transportation fleet to benefit both the environment and ourselves.”
While school board members and Superintendent Dan Bridges didn’t respond to the students during Monday’s meeting, the issue arose on March 21 when the board approved the purchase of 17 diesel-powered buses at a cost of $1.8 million. Board members Donna Wandke and Joe Kozminski voted no, with Wandke expressing frustration at the lack of urgency in shifting to electric buses.
District Chief Financial Officer Michael Frances said a shift was difficult because the district didn’t qualify for grants that would make the transition affordable. The standard 71-passenger diesel-powered buses purchased by the district cost $108,497, but the electric equivalent costs anywhere from $200,000 to $500,000.
I had to post about this after writing several days ago about how school buses have not changed in decades. I could imagine several possible scenarios given this possibility of electric buses:
-A few influential districts in each region are the early adopters, other surrounding districts are interested observers, and when the electric buses work out, they gain market share.
-Districts wait to see if there is more money available – grants, other sources – before spending a lot more upfront for electric buses.
-Certain districts might experience more pressure from students, parents, members of the community, and board members to purchase electric buses as part of broader efforts to be more environmentally sustainable.
-The electric buses might not run on diesel but they might look very similar on the exterior and interior. Absent the black smoke, will they present a better experience for riders?