More than two dozen Michigan school districts are adding electric school buses to their fleets. But are we truly ready to take on such an endeavor?

Replacing Older Buses With Electric Vehicles

Seven Michigan school districts have dipped their toes into the electric school bus pond. The pilot program, introduced by the Michigan Department of Energy, Great Lakes, and Energy, placed electric buses in Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Zeeland, Three Rivers, Oxford, Gaylord, and Roseville.

The initial investment in 2019 was about $4.2 million, according to Mlive. 

In May of this year, another 27 districts have been tapped to add electric buses to their fleets, replacing older, gas-guzzling diesel buses. A list of those districts is available here. 

A Failed Experiment?

But is Michigan ready for a full-scale rollout of electric school buses?

The Ann Arbor school district tells Mlive that during the first two-and-a-half years of the pilot program, at least one of its four buses was out of commission for repairs nearly all the time.

Jason Bing is the Director of Capital Programs for the Ann Arbor Public School district.

"The technology wasn't necessarily ready for showtime," Bing said.

Other districts that participated in the pilot program reported similar findings. One district went on to say that when the buses were running, they were fantastic - but [sic] "they seem to be always be broke down for various reasons."

A Success Story

Despite all the problems reported by school districts, the Michigan Association of Public Transportation called the pilot program a success.

Katrina Morris is the Executive Director for MPAT. She tells Mlive the pilot program presented economic savings for districts willing to look beyond the initial investment costs.

“Overall, it did what we were hoping it would do, as well as giving us cleaner air quality and a quieter ride for kids on the bus.”



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