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Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Suellen Reed has launched Learn Green, Live Green, a year-long initiative to go green, by unveiling the state's first hybrid-electric school bus.

Learn Green, Live Green is designed to help educators, students, parents and community members discover practical, cost-effective ways to model environmentally-responsible behavior both inside and outside of the classroom. The Learn Green, Live Green concept fits naturally with Indiana's academic standards, local school curricula and student learning goals at each grade level. Local participation is completely voluntary.

"We can all be more conscious of the impact we have on the world around us and how our everyday choices can make a real difference," said Reed. "This is a great opportunity for our students and communities to learn to live more responsibly together."

Each month in 2008, the Indiana Department of Education will spotlight a different aspect of the issue through an interactive Web site while offering a variety of related resources for schools and communities.

Indiana's first hybrid-electric school bus
To kick off the Learn Green, Live Green initiative, Reed and members of the State School Bus Committee approved Indiana's first hybrid-electric school bus, which will go into daily use immediately at Randolph Eastern School Corporation.

"This is the right thing to do," said Cathy Stephen, Superintendent of Randolph Eastern School Corporation. "Schools need to lead in helping our problems with the environment, with our dependence on oil and in providing safe and healthy riding conditions for our students. This system has the potential to address all of these issues."

The bus was converted with new hybrid-electric technology designed Variable Torque Motors, LLC, a company based out of Fort Wayne. The retrofit includes an electric motor, a controller and an ultracapacitor that fit directly into the existing drive shaft. When the bus operates at or below 35 mph, it is propelled by the electric motor with a "boost" installed from the diesel engine when needed. Once the bus exceeds 35 mph, the diesel engine takes over and propels the bus.

"The idea is to not use the diesel engine at the start/stop speeds in order to save fuel," said Rob Lykins, president of Productive Concepts, Inc. in Union City who installed the new technology.
Also, Lykins said that harmful emissions coming out of the exhaust system are reduced by the same amount as the fuel savings. In other words, if fuel savings equal 30 percent, emissions are reduced by 30 percent as well.

The cost of the conversion totaled $32,800 and was paid for by a grant from the Randolph County Solid Waste Management District.