AAPS’ first electric school bus is ready to roll

Fleet of four new electric buses will allow the district to continue working toward environmental sustainability.

Story, photos and video by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor

The school bus pulling into Pioneer High School next month might look a lot like the other buses in the food distribution fleet.

But listen closely and you may hear … well, not much.

That’s because it’s the district’s first bus that is powered not by diesel, but by electricity.

AAPS’ first electric bus—shown here hooked to a charging station—will be ready to roll on Thursday for food distribution at Pioneer High School.

“Obviously as a planet, we’re trying to get away from the use of fossil fuels,” said John Nikolich, lead maintenance technician for Durham School Services, who began working at AAPS in 1980.  “The fact that we can be at the front of this as a school district is just amazing.  I have seen the district go from gasoline-powered buses that produced terrible emissions, to diesel-powered buses that produced unhealthy dirty soot,  to the current diesel fleet that uses engines that control soot and are 90 percent cleaner than they were just 10 years ago.”

John Nikolich takes part in Wednesday’s virtual training of the electric buses.

Nikolich said these buses take the district a significant step further.

“Now we’re lucky enough to have some of the first zero-emission electric buses in the state,” he said.  “I feel fortunate to be a part of it.”

AAPS purchased the buses at a steep discount—each cost $103,159 compared to the regular price of $343,849—under a grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy which was partially funded by a Volkswagen mitigation settlement.

Durham Operations Supervisor Charlie Bugg stands by AAPS’ first electric bus.

These new buses replace older diesel models, and will save hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel each year. Maintenance costs are expected to decline as well.

Ann Arbor Public Schools’ four electric buses are among the state of Michigan’s first fleet of 17 deployed this year throughout seven school districts, including Gaylord, Kalamazoo, Oxford, Roseville, Three Rivers and Zeeland.

Transportation staff will take two days of virtual training this week.

Durham School Services General Manager Ed Gallagher said he expects maintenance costs to be less for the electric buses compared to diesel-powered. and the cost of electricity should be significantly lower than buying fuel over the long run.

The four electric buses are among 27 new buses recently purchased by the district to replace aging buses. As a result, 23 older buses will be sold at auction. The four that were replaced by the electric buses must be scrapped as part of the grant requirement.

The buses will be used on routes in which they are most visible, said Gallagher. Two days of virtual training were held this week for mechanics and staff, and drivers will be trained later.

This is the first of the four electric buses to arrive at the district. The others are expected within the next couple of months or so.

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