Okay, I am a big (BIG) fan of PHESBs: Plug-in Hybrid Electric School Buses. With all the (welcome) focus on PHECs (Plug-In Electric Cars) like the Volt, Prius, and others, the real potential for some gamechanging through fleets of large fleets seem to be falling by the wayside. In fact, school buses offer some quite serious opportunities for breakthrough benefits and merit serious attention. Happily, we are seeing some serious news advancing the possibility of actually seizing these benefits.
Recent test results show that the IC Bus PHEBs, using hybrid-drive systems from Enova Systems, “can improve fuel efficiency by more than 70 percent compared to standard diesel-powered school buses.” In addition to the fuel economy savings, other benefits include:
Analysis suggests that aggressive deployment of PHESBs could save the equivalent of 1/2 day of projected US fuel use per year. This isn’t a silver bullet to the challenges of Peak Oil and Global Warming, but a nice piece to insert.
But the benefits are far more extensive. These buses would provide the potential for emergency power amid a disaster (manmade or otherwise), mobile power for public events, and reduce the impact of diesel fumes on children’s health. (Combining PHESBing with ‘green diesel‘, and this health threat basically disappears.)
One of the key challenges to achieving these benefits is the price differential between PHESBs and the standard bus. Amid tight (tighter than normal) local budget environments, spending additional money upfront for future fuel savings and for ‘intangible’ items like children’s health is difficult. IC Bus took a step in the right direction with a $40k reduction in the price of the PHESBs. Now, there are 19 PHESBs out there in America. I have heard nothing other than rave reviews of them. Last I heard: an order of 100 PHESBs and IC Bus can drop the price to the point where the fuel saving will be compelling for school administrators purchase decisions, even without considering the quite real (but less direct to the budget) benefits like reduced pollution and emergency power reserves.