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Clean Energy Jobs Take The PHE-School Bus

November 20th, 2009 · 5 Comments

This is part of a series of posts on ‘clean energy jobs’ opportunities for sparking meaningful employment, quickly, in the United States as discussed in Clean Energy Jobs: Stimulate Me.

Clean Energy Jobs Take the PHE-School Bus: $100 million per year for 2,000 jobs

There are
hundreds of thousands of yellow school buses taking America’s children to and from school. These buses average about 6 miles per gallon, burn about about 15 million barrels of oil per year, and create a real risk to children’s health due to diesel fumes while idling and driving. A better option exists: Plug-In Hybrid Electric School Buses which would cut fuel demand (11 miles per gallon), provide emergency services (mobile electrical generators), offer a stabilizing power storage option as America deploys a smart grid (10 buses represents about megawatt hour of usable storage margin), and reduce exposure to diesel fumes by some 70 percent. And, our difficult economic and jobs situation might have created an opportunity for fostering a nation-wide shift to that better solution.

As per School Bus Fleet

the economic downturn has affected schools … districts are increasing class sizes, laying off personnel, cutting academic programs and extracurricular activities, and deferring maintenance at rates that have tripled and, in some cases, even quadrupled over the last school year. … Jim Shafer, who works with a district that was taking a $1.4-million cut this year, notes, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and transportation’s usually the first place they go.”

One element of this: school systems are reducing bus purchases, deferring any non-absolutely necessary expenditures as they battle to maintain essential services (teachers, heating, lights).

Now, there is a huge barrier to PHESBs, especially in budget tight times: they cost more than double the upfront cost of new traditional buses. Ouch!

This where a federal program comes in.

We speak of the prioritization of moving toward Plug-In Electric Vehicles (PHEVs), like the Chevy Volt, as a path to transform the nation’s transportation system. The reality, however, is that there are no PHEVs in mass market and they are going to be introduced relatively slowly.
On the other hand, PHESBs are ready to go today, ready to be coming off the manufacturing line soon after orders flow. But, there are barriers to deploying them (especially as local communities slash procurement budgets to reduce deficits). A $100 million / year program for five years would move PHESBs from marginal (about 18 deployed in a test program) to core in future school system decisions about bus purchases.

This program could easily move beyond school buses to other larger vehicles (think, for example, hotel / airport shuttle buses, local public transport, light trucks, etc …) but even ‘just’ school buses would have a wide range of real benefits beyond simply reducing fuel use, to improve student (and community) health with reduced diesel fumes, emergency power generation (imagine if there had been 15,000 mobile 50 kilowatt generators all around the areas affected by Katrina), and a path toward using centralized locations (schools, school bus maintenance lots) for introduction of localized power storage (Vehicle-to-Grid) as part of a smart(er) grid.

While such a program could likely absorb more money,
$100 million/year would spark a revolution in school transport and start protecting / creating jobs quickly (as school bus orders are plummeting). School bus sales, an American industry, have plummeted as local governments around the country tighten their belts even further. This measure would spark some jobs (perhaps ‘just’ 2000) while setting the stage for transforming yellow buses across the nation.

This additional funding could be moved, potentially, through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus USA program

Clean Energy Jobs Take the PHE-School Bus: $100 million per year for 2,000 jobs

A basic concept:

  • PHESBs cost, roughly, $200k while traditional buses cost about $85k.  A PHESB price of $140k provides a 7-year payback solely in fuel prices.  Manufacturers state volume can drive the price to $140k or lower.
  • The $100 million would have
    • $60 million distributed:
      • 1st year, payment of $120k (or 500 buses) from Federal government with no more than 20% to any one state, with at least 10 states participating.
      • 2d year, payment of $100k (or 600 buses).
      • 3rd year, payment of $80k (or 750 buses)
      • 4th year, payment of $50k (or 1200 buses)
      • 5th year, payment of $25k (or 2400 buses)
    • $20 million to fund higher payments for impoverished districts
    • $10 million for purchase of PHESBs for government facilities and agencies
    • $8 million for Smart Grid research & development focused on supporting PHESBs
    • $2 million for research on program operations and execution
  • By the end of the 5th year, the PHESBs will be price competitive over a 7 year payback with traditional buses. And, the Federal government might choose to maintain some assistance payment to state and local governments buying PHESBs, rather than traditional diesels, due to the societal benefits.

Clean Energy Jobs series posts:

Tags: PHEV · bus · clean energy jobs · schools · transportation

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