INDIANAPOLIS – Multiple breakout sessions during the Green Bus Summit at STN EXPO Indianapolis tackled aspects of transitioning school bus operations to cleaner energy.
Micro Bird presented a session that provided insights on how to best work with utilities and charging providers as well as with vehicle manufacturers, dealers and other stakeholders to make electric school bus deployments as successful as possible.
Michael Daguilh, corporate EV technology trainer for Micro Bird, urged attendees to ask a wide array of questions, to make sure the relevant partners are up to standard and determine the energy parameters of their districts and localities. He noted that ensuring the bus is charger-agnostic helps avoid complications. He advised considering infrastructure before even funding of the vehicles.
Listen to episode 163 of the School Transportation Nation podcast, recorded onsite at STN EXPO Indy with Brittany Barrett, senior manager of e-mobility for the World Resources Institute:
In an IC Bus session on reducing total cost of ownership of EVs with scheduled charging, A. J. Palmisano, director of charging and infrastructure for the bus manufacturer’s parent company Navistar, said that EV total cost of ownership can be significantly less than that of conventional diesel or gas vehicles. However, the potential cost advantages of EVs can be turned upside down if charging is done with the wrong equipment at the wrong times or in the wrong locations.
Palmisano discussed how to determine the best charging solutions for a fleet as well as the effects of temperatures, time of day, and charging speeds to reduce total cost of ownership.
First Student’s session entitled “Electrifying the Future,” focused on collaborative approaches to implementing charging infrastructure with utilities, delving into the critical role utilities play in the electrification process.
Steve Mentzer, senior EV principal consultant for First Student, and Ladi Ogunnubi, senior manager of large customer strategy and programs for utility ComEd, discussed the challenges and opportunities associated with integrating charging infrastructure into existing systems, as well as the importance of fostering strong partnerships with utilities.
“It’s not one size fits all.”
Kevin King, Senior EV Principal Consultant, First Student
In its session “From Alt Fuels to ZEV,” Cummins representatives discussed that there is no “one size fits all” approach to decarbonization. A longtime provider of diesel and natural gas engines, Cummins recently announced its rebranded zero-emissions division Accelera.
Bahar Konak, Accelera’s global bus business development director, provided insight into various aspects of planning for electric school buses, implementing them, maintaining them, and running them successfully. Franciso Lagunas, Cummins North America Bus Segment general manager, confirmed that diesel will continue to be an option and will get cleaner because of the latest EPA emission regulations.
A panel moderated by Claire Alford, eastern regional manager of market development for Highland Electric Fleets, featured Gregory Salois, director of the department of transportation at Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), and Robbin Marshall, deputy director of transportation for Baltimore City Public Schools in Maryland.
Alford explained that Highland is available to help districts overcome the hurdles of affordability, risk and reliability, and complexity in their paths toward electrification. Salois explained that MCPS will have 326 electric school buses within the next few years and that Highland will manage all charging for about the same operational cost of one diesel bus.
Alford covered the way that the technology is constantly developing, and Salois agreed that the electrification process is “challenging but fun.”
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A panel session by Zonar, moderated by newly appointed Vice President and General Manager of Passenger Services Tim Ammon, discussed how school districts of varying sizes and differing resources face the wave of ESB adoption with unique needs.
Panelists David Pearson, senior solutions manager for Zonar, Sean Leach, director of technology and platform management for Highland Electric Fleets, and Kevin King, senior EV principal consultant for First Student, discussed the ways that various industry manufacturers and service suppliers are collaborating to help districts reach their electrification goals.
They recommended districts identify their unique structural requirements, choose trustworthy and long-term partners, evaluate contracting needs, and communicate key takeaways back to district administration and other decision makers.
Additionally, the panel stressed the need to “understand what you don’t understand” and shared recommendations for districts to establish important markers and timelines on their EV adoption journey.
“It’s not one size fits all,” King underscored.
Listen to episode 161 of the School Transportation Nation podcast with Tim Ammon: