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First Connecticut City Gets All-Electric School Bus

Connecticut's only all-electric school bus will enable the district to not only reduce carbon emissions, increase energy efficiency and lower fuel costs, but ensure children a more healthful ride to and from school.

by Cassandra Day, The Middletown Press / February 9, 2021
Electric vehicles plugged into charging stations. (Shutterstock) Shutterstock

(TNS) — Connecticut's only all-electric school bus will enable the district to not only reduce carbon emissions, increase energy efficiency and lower fuel costs, but ensure children a more healthful ride to and from school.

State and local officials unveiled DATTCO's small Collins Type A All-Electric School Bus Monday at the high school. The $350,000 vehicle runs on five sodium chloride batteries, according to President  Don DeVivo .

Prices for diesel-powered small buses start around $60,000, and the larger ones cost $80,000s and up, according to the company. A DATTCO official said the New Britain-based transportation company paid $100,000 of the $270,000 price tag for this particular bus, with the rest paid from the Volkswagen Settlement Program.

The settlement program centered around claims by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Trade Commission that the German automaker used technology to bypass emissions regulations.

Development costs for such vehicles are very expensive, said DeVivo, who expects the price tag to come down. He likened the situation to 50-inch televisions selling for $4,000 when they first emerged. Now, they are $400, he said.

"It was a significant cost, but there's a cost to being first," DeVivo said. His company was able to replace one diesel-powered school bus with an electric one. There will be more on the way beginning in September, he said.

"We like to be first here in Middletown," Mayor  Ben Florsheim  said. "We like to be the leaders when it comes to new, progressive ideas that are going to not only help our environment, not only protect our future, but also it makes sense for our school district budget, our city budget, and for our taxpayers."

The League of Women Voters of Connecticut approached DATTCO about submitting a grant request to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to apply through the Volkswagen Settlement Program, CLWV Executive Director  Lori Brown  said.

The nonpartisan organization encourages informed and active participation in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy, according to its website.

The VW settlement provides detailed information on the types of projects states can undertake, including repowering or replacing vehicles, according to its website.

Transportation accounts for 38 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, Brown said. "This is really where the rubber meets the road when it comes to doing things that invest in climate change mitigation. This is the perfect example of where it can be — local, state, and our federal government finally going in the right direction."

In the early 2000s, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection was involved in a study led by Environment & Human Health Inc., according to  Vicki Hackett , deputy commissioner of energy. The study measured the emissions levels from inside school buses, she said.

"They found the diesel emissions for the school bus could make it into the cabin pretty easily, increasing exposure to children on the bus who were on 30-minute or longer rides," Hackett said.

"Any reduction in those diesel particulate emissions for children whose lungs are still developing is really important," she said.

One of the biggest advantages is maintenance, DeVivo said. "There's no engine, there's no oil changes, you're really saving," he said.

The city is known for its progressive action. In November, the district was the first to pilot a free COVID-19 mobile testing program at all district schools.

Last summer, Connecticut Biotech donated 220 face mask exoskeletons to Middletown teachers as part of a pilot program. These 3D-printed frames are worn outside a disposable or cloth face covering using facial recognition technology.

"We pride ourselves on being the first in experimentation and testing," said Middletown Superintendent of Schools  Michael Conner , adding that innovation and creativity is something the district "prides itself on."

"This is the future of education, to be able to align our progressive academic program around innovation," the superintendent said.

Florsheim praised DATTCO for taking the initiative. "We know this is the way the market is going, we know the climate crisis requires us to act, so we are going to act," he said. "It's an incredible reusage of the Volkswagen settlement, because we know how important it is to start moving to electric vehicles."

For information, visit vwclearinghouse.orgmy.lwv.org and dattco.com.

(c)2021 The Middletown Press, Conn. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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