When I was in elementary school I gave zero thought to what auto emissions were doing to the environment. Not once did I look up at the black spew happily chortling up from my school bus and wonder where it went and what it meant. Maybe it was because I grew up in Detroit where such thoughts fell somewhere between anathema and simply way off radar. Today, of course, kids are different. (Well, some kids.) It’s second nature for them to wonder about such things. And it should be second nature to us to send them the right messages.
So, what about those school buses?
Some good news on this front comes in the form of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus USA program, which is designed to “reduce children’s exposure to diesel exhaust and the amount of air pollution created by diesel school buses.” Clean School Bus USA is one of a number of federal and state programs that are providing grants for school-bus retrofitting and replacement to offer the approximately 24-million American children who take school buses daily a better ride. (That’s a lot of kids breathing in bus stuff for an average hour and half every day.)
The effort is beginning to pay off, most recently in Wisconsin and Ohio where a large Illinois-based school bus manufacturer has been commissioned to build 16 hybrid gasoline-electric buses for use in local school systems. The company, IC Bus, is a subsidiary of Navistar, which makes more than 60 percent of North America’s school buses and is also the recipient of recent $39 million dollar federal grant to manufacture all-electric vehicles. IC Bus is working with Enova (electric drive train) and Valance (electric propulsion) technology to deliver its CE Series hybrid bus, which is offered as a plug-in or a gas-electric without the plug-in option.
IC Bus says the series boasts 65 percent better fuel economy and a reduction of 39 percent emissions compared to the average diesel school bus. This is a big deal, kids. Those school buses cover a lot of ground. Can you say more than four billion miles a year?