Yellow buses go green: District adds electric school buses to its fleet

Each bus expected to save district $5,000 a year in fuel, maintenance costs

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Philadelphia School District’s yellow school bus fleet just got a little greener.

The district has taken delivery of five new electric school buses, with plans to replace even more of its diesel buses in the coming years.

Administrators gathered at the district’s garage at Broad and Huntingdon streets on Friday to unveil five newly purchased electric Blue Bird school buses.

“The district owns around 330 buses,” said Reggie McNeil, district chief operating officer. “We have replaced only five and we have six more coming, so that’s going to be about a half a percent of our fleet right now.”

McNeil said the district had been awarded a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant, which would be used to buy six more electric buses.

“We look to continue to modernize our fleet as we are awardees of these grants that we are applying for, and also by using some of our capital funding to procure more buses,” McNeil said.

The buses cost about $365,000 each — twice as much as diesel buses. But the district expects each bus to save $5,000 a year in fuel and maintenance costs, McNeil said.

After mechanics are trained and routes are identified, the five buses should be on the road in a few months, according to Teresa Flemming, executive director of transportation services.

“We are going to pilot them in the late spring by putting some of them into operation with anticipation to have all five of them operating during our ESY [Extended School Year] program,” she explained.

The district also plans to gather air pollution samples using sensors on diesel and electric buses. Data collected will be provided to the city health department, Flemming said.

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“We also plan to make it available for educational purposes by sharing available reports with teachers to incorporate into their classroom materials,” she said.

Most district students ride SEPTA or walk to school, but about 11,000 rely on yellow buses.

The district’s original plan last June was to buy five buses from Quebec-based Lion Electric. After Lion reported it didn’t have the capacity to fulfill the order, Blue Bird of Pittsburgh was selected, McNeil said.