Yellow School Buses Getting Juiced Up
As “clean energy awareness” sweeps the world, policymakers, teen activists, and (most notably) massive corporations are pushing for sustainable alternatives to the normal fuel combustion engine that has powered our vehicles since the days of Henry Ford. In an effort to support that mission, local electricity provider Con Edison is testing out a pilot program that will determine the feasibility of using electric school buses in New York.
In late December, the company rolled out 5 electric school buses, constructed by Lion Electric back in 2018, which have been transporting kids to a White Plains elementary school. After the students are dropped off, a nearby charging station gets the buses ready for their next trips.
Brian Ross, Con Ed’s manager on the school bus project, is hopeful that the test will provide meaningful insights to where the company is headed: “We think electric school buses may provide an opportunity to achieve two of our company’s goals, which are reducing carbon emissions and maintaining our industry-leading reliability…We are innovating to help our state and region achieve a clean energy future in which electric vehicles will have a big role.”
Con Ed’s ultimate goal is to evaluate the amount of emissions released by the buses, as well as how much energy they consume from its “grid.” If the numbers prove to be lower than normal school buses, then dispatching the electric buses on a larger scale will certainly have a marked effect in the long run. Con Ed also claims this study could improve reliability of its overall electrical grid system.
Another essential question the testing will answer is whether the frequent charging will deteriorate the buses’ fuel cell batteries quicker than expected. As large trucking companies look to get into the electric vehicle (“EV”) sector -- with UPS and other parcel services placing huge orders for electric tractor-trailer trucks for nationwide delivery – extending the life cycle of the batteries is of utmost importance in order to get the best return on investment.
Some have disputed the efficacy of EVs when compared to traditional engines, noting that they also release a great deal of harmful material into the atmosphere, due to the enormous amount of energy needed to create the lithium batteries which give the vehicles power. Approximately one third of the entire emissions of an EV come during its production. Further, the cost of producing EV batteries is much higher than normal gas powered engines -- at least for now.
All in all, though, the overwhelming majority of research shows that, throughout the typical useful life of an EV, the amount of greenhouse gases emitted are far less than the typical combustible engine. And as time goes on, EVs will most certainly get more efficient, with lower greenhouse emissions or environmental impact.
Slowly but surely the world is coming to appreciate the need to make the switch from gas powered to electric -- whether driven by environmental or financial incentives. For instance, California has made a pledge to ban gas powered cars by the year 2035, reinforcing the importance the clean energy sector will have on that state in the near future.
Hopefully, Con Ed’s school bus test run will show a major reduction in carbon emissions, and that the program will be expanded. And that it will serve as a catalyst for other companies to follow suit.