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Published: Monday, 9/17/2012

Electric buses under study for schools in area

Hancock County officials weigh option

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
School officials from Hancock County and the surrounding area are taking a look at adding buses to their fleets that will require a plug-in rather than a fill-up. A fully electric school bus will be at the Hancock County Educational Service Center in Findlay on Friday morning for school transportation officials to see. School officials from Hancock County and the surrounding area are taking a look at adding buses to their fleets that will require a plug-in rather than a fill-up. A fully electric school bus will be at the Hancock County Educational Service Center in Findlay on Friday morning for school transportation officials to see.
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FINDLAY — School officials from Hancock County and the surrounding area are taking a look at adding buses to their fleets that will require a plug-in rather than a fill-up.

A fully electric school bus will be at the Hancock County Educational Service Center in Findlay on Friday morning for school transportation officials to see.

Jon Kelley, maintenance and transportation supervisor for Van Buren Local Schools just north of Findlay, said he’s “in the investigating stages” with the electric-powered buses.

“I’m the maintenance and transportation supervisor for the schools, so not only am I trying to be fiscally responsible, but also environmentally responsible,” Mr. Kelley said. “As I look at alternative energy sources for the facilities themselves, that thinking carries over to the buses as well.”

Rick Van Mooy, a coordinator with the Educational Service Center and retired schools superintendent, said electric buses cost about 75 percent more up front than a traditional diesel-powered bus, but the savings result from reduced maintenance and fuel costs.

The buses also don’t emit the fumes that can bother passengers, and they’re quiet, which could help the driver concentrate better.

“I think we’ve got an obligation to explore all areas of technology and cost savings,” Mr. Van Mooy said.

The eTrans bus that will be in Findlay is built in Warwick, N.Y., using an electric-truck chassis from Kansas City-based Smith Electric Vehicles. According to the Trans Tech Web site, the 52-passenger bus “runs on a 120kw induction motor allowing it to reach speeds of up to 60 mph.

"The school bus has a trip range of approximately 120 to 130 miles per charge from its two lithium-ion batteries depending on load and driving conditions.”

Mr. Van Mooy said that although the electric bus would not be compatible with every bus route, it could work for some routes, particularly because schools tend to run the same route with the same number of stops and starts every day.

“They have very predictable runs, and you can tailor the size of the battery pack for the run,” he said.

The Van Buren district has 17 diesel-powered buses.

“Most of our buses are 84-passenger buses. These are smaller, so we wouldn’t be able to use them in every route or every situation,” Mr. Kelley said. “There are places they could serve a purpose —– short field trips, kindergarten routes, preschool routes.”

He said he’s been looking into all types of buses, including hybrids and propane conversions.

“We’re not really committed to doing anything, but we’re looking,” he said.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.



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