ROSEVILLE, Mich. (WXYZ) — People riding around Roseville may be able see school buses, but they won't be able to hear them even while they’re on.
The virtual silence is one of the many differences between electric and diesel buses.
“I have drivers that drive these regularly. They keep notes on what happens, what went wrong, if it makes a funny sound,” said Scott Sikorski, a supervisor for Roseville Community Schools transportation services.
The district has two electric buses as part of its fleet.
“We have a responsibility to show our students that we care about the environment and there’s no better way to really model that behavior,” Roseville Community Schools Superintendent Mark Blaszkowski said.
Blaszkowski says the district got the battery-operated buses in February 2020 through a grant through DTE Energy.
The Environmental Protection Agency says these buses can cost anywhere between $300,000 and $400,000. A diesel bus costs about $100,000 to $120,000.
But it’s the long-term benefits to the environment and eventual cost savings as it relates to fuel and maintenance that proponents look forward to.
The EPA is also subsidizing the purchase of electric school buses through a rebate program, doling out $5 billion over the next five years.
“So that’s the goal right now is to get a billion dollars out this year. And we’re going to look at the experience that we have with this rebate program and try and figure out is this the best way to get the money out to school districts that need and want these buses, or are there different mechanisms?” said Doug Aburano, manager of the air programs with the EPA.
Sikorski said, “We’re worried about the winter, what you get per mile for the battery charge.”
In response to that concern, Aburano says some buses will be temperature controlled to account for colder weather impacts on the battery, and more EV charging stations will be popping up.
Anna Stefanopoulou, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Michigan, says the top two concerns with EV buses are often vehicle range alongside charging and safety on the road.
“As engineers and as managers, we need to really think of the worst-case scenario and that’s what we really need to prepare for. And I think working with the state and educators, they can help explain the issues, can also reduce this type of anxiety,” Stefanopoulou said.