First of Michigan’s zero emissions electric school buses arrive to transport students

The first of Michigan’s electric school buses arrived recently in Gaylord, Oxford, Three Rivers, Kalamazoo and Zeeland. Ultimately, seven school districts — including Roseville and Ann Arbor — will receive 17 electric school buses to replace older diesel school buses.

“Michigan has a great once in a lifetime opportunity to provide significant financial support for the transition to cleaner transportation options such as zero emission electric school buses,” notes Debbie Swartz, an EGLE environmental quality specialist. EGLE is contributing to the funding of the program.

The bus purchases were funded with help from EGLE’s Fuel Transformation Program (FTP), which was financed through the Volkswagen Mitigation Beneficiary settlement after the automaker was fined for installing emission control defeat devices on many of its diesel vehicles. The $4.2 million from the FTP program helped districts pay for up to 70 percent of the costs associated with buying the buses, as well as Level 2 and DC Fast Charging stations.

Zeeland Public Schools is serving as the project manager, overseeing delivery of all the buses and coordinating training and inspections with the Michigan State Police.

David Meeuwsen, transportation director at Zeeland Public Schools, notes the buses have made Michigan history. “Michigan State Police inspectors spent time learning about the buses and now plan to add a new section in the state’s bus inspection guide.”

School bus technicians have also been trained about the buses’ equipment and safety features, including how each bus communicates via Wi-Fi with technicians.

Traditional diesel school buses emit harmful pollutants that can contribute to asthma and other ailments. The pollutants include carbon monoxide, fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide.

Six of the buses are being manufactured by Thomas Built Buses and will be delivered to schools next year.

Michigan’s electric school buses feature several benefits, including:

  • Zero emissions
  • No noise pollution
  • Low maintenance
  • STEM teaching and learning opportunities