The state’s public school bus fleet is getting some assistance in helping the environment thanks to a $554,000 grant from the U.S. Evironmental Protection Agency. The grant will help the school bus fleet to further reduce the amount of pollution created by the diesel powered buses. State Department of Education Transportation Director Donald Tudor says a portion of the funds will go to the Department of Health and Environmental Control to help provide training for school districts in school bus idle control in an effort to reduce emissions and the wasting of fuel. Tudor says the grant will also enable the D.O.E. to install equipment on 500 1995 model buses that will significantly reduce emissions.”A retrofit piece of equipment that will be added to approximately 500 school buses will help eliminate some of the emissions now being generated by those buses. This device is called a crankcase ventilation filtration system.”
EPA officials say that upgrade will result in an estimated 4.7 ton reduction in diesel emmissions.
As part of the grant program, the South Carolina Department of Education will replace four of the older model 65-passenger school buses with four hybrid electric buses. Tudor says hybrids are more expensive than standard diesel buses, but have lower fuel costs and greatly reduced emissions.
“It starts off with electricity and when it gets to a certain speed or the driver has to accelerate beyond what the electric engine will provide, the diesel engine trips in and provides the acceleration. These four will actually regenerate themselves. By driving down the highway and applying brakes, you literally regenerate and recharge the batteries in the vehicle.”
Tudor says education officials will work with DHEC to decide where the four new hybrid electric buses will be put into service. Tudor says the buses will likely be placed in areas DHEC identifies as having an “air quality concern.”
Tudor says the grant comes at a good time what with the state of the economy. Because of earlier cuts in state appropriations the D.O.E.’s 15 year school replacement cycle has been put on hold for the past two years.
“This past year the rotation would have meant we would have replaced at least 380 buses and we didn’t have funding to replace any. THis coming year we would be looking to replace another 380 and other than the funding that we have associated with this grant, we don’t expect to have any.”
Tudor says the 15 year replacement cycle has been put on hold until the state’s economy can get in a better position to allow the General Assembly to provide adequate funding.