More electric school buses will be rolling on Michigan’s roadways in this new year, thanks in part to a federal grant helping 25 school districts make their first purchase.
Dearborn Public Schools unveiled its first electric bus purchase last month with the Blue Bird All American RE electric school bus. With its green bird logo and electric plugs, the zero-emission bus can carry up to 84 passengers and travel up to 120 miles on a single charge.
The specialized bus, which takes between three and eight hours to fully recharge, depending on the charging infrastructure, is the first of several the Wayne County district will purchase with the help of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant, school officials said.
Dearborn superintendent Glenn Maleyko said the district already has a fleet of 70 traditional diesel fuel-burning Blue Bird buses and that adding electric vehicles will help the district reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions while improving student and community health.
“Electric school buses help in reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Today marks an important step as we start to evaluate this new technology,” Maleyko said in a statement.
The district anticipates cost savings in operating the e-buses which typically cost about 14 cents a mile on energy compared to up to 49 cents per mile for traditional diesel engine buses.
Dearborn Schools runs 56 bus routes for about 5,500 students, which equates to about 990,000 student trips a year, school officials said. Thousands of other student trips are made for field trips, athletic events and shuttles between the high schools and the Dearborn Heights campus.
The bus was funded with a mix of federal grant dollars and district funds. The EPA provided an initial grant of $300,000 through the American Rescue Plan Electric School Bus Rebate program which seeks to replace older diesel school buses with zero-emissions electric buses.
The district contributed about $100,000 to the final cost of the first bus, making the total bill to Dearborn Schools similar to what a traditional school bus costs to buy, school officials said.
In November, the EPA announced the district would be eligible for $7.1 million in funding to buy up to 18 additional electric school buses through the program. The EPA classified Dearborn Public Schools as a priority district since about 70% of families in the district are low-income.