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Business

Hybrid's hot. Fuel is high. Why not a hybrid schoolbus?

The push for less reliance on foreign oil has trickle down all the way down to the humble school bus. A prototype of the nation’s first hybrid diesel-electric school bus is expected to be built in 2008.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor on

The push for less reliance on foreign oil has trickle down all the way down to the humble school bus. A prototype of the nation’s first hybrid diesel-electric school bus is expected to be built in 2008, reports eSchool News

School bus manufacturer IC Corp. has partnered with the Enova Systems, a developer of electric, hybrid, and fuel-cell digital power management systems, and expects the buses to reduce emissions and improve fuel efficency by 40 percent.

"There is a lot of regenerative braking done by the school bus, because of the frequent starts and stops the school bus makes when picking up and dropping off students," said David Hillman, director of marketing for IC Corp. "That's one of the fundamental reasons why a school bus is a natural for hybrid technology."

Unfortunately, the current cost of a hybrid school bus is two and a half times that of the average $80,000 price tag on regular, full-size diesel school buses. That's almost $200,000 for your state-of-the-art schoolbus. But as oil prices rise and the demand for the new technology increases, the price will invariably come down.

"One thing almost all school districts have in common is that they have tight, fixed budgets, and the fact is, this technology is not free," Hillman said. "It's difficult to seed this kind of technology in the marketplace. But this seems to be an easy tradeoff - save on fuel money, and there are more dollars to spend on transportation infrastructure.
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There are a number of things that are in the works to assist in helping school afford the high price tag of transitioning into hybrid diesel-electric school buses fleets. Congress has proposed a $50,000 tax credit for every hybrid school bus being built, and there are buyer’s consortia in the works.

"Hybrid electric buses ultimately can help the [United States] meet increasingly strict air emissions standards of the future, provide a healthier environment for our citizens, and reduce our dependency on foreign oil," said Advanced Energy vice president John Morrison. "Adapting hybrid technology to school buses, however, requires market intervention, which is what this project aims to do."
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