Michigan Welcomes First Electric School Buses

The Thomas Built Buses Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley electric school bus with battery pack, thermal management software from Proterra. The bus was displayed at the ACT EXPO in Long Beach, California on April 26, 2019.
The Thomas Built Buses Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley electric school bus with battery pack, thermal management software from Proterra. The bus was displayed at the ACT EXPO in Long Beach, California on April 26, 2019.

Seven school districts across the Wolverine State have used Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Fund money to acquire a total of 17 electric school buses. The buses will be tested by local energy utilities for their vehicle-to-grid capacities.

Most of the buses are expected to enter service transporting students to and from school this fall, the Michigan Association for Pupil Transportation (MAPT) announced on Thursday. Gov. Gretchen Whitmore was also on hand during a ceremony at the state capital.

MAPT worked with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy to secure $4.2 million from the VW fund.

It is administered through the Michigan Fuel Transformation Program to replace the older diesel buses with 11 Lion Electric LionC school buses and six Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley electrics from Thomas Built Buses and Proterra.

The school districts that will be operating the buses are Ann Arbor Public Schools, Gaylord Public Schools, Kalamazoo Public Schools, Oxford Public Schools, Roseville Public Schools, Three Rivers Community Public Schools and Zeeland Public Schools.

The electric buses will also be used by students as STEM laboratories for real-world applications of new innovations, such as zero-emission technologies that power the buses.

Debra S. Swartz, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Environment, told School Transportation News that all 17 electric buses will determine the feasibility of vehicle-to-grid, or V2G, applications.


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Dave Meeuwsen, director of transportation at Zeeland Public Schools and executive director of MAPT, said the 11 LionC buses were specified to include V2G as well as V2B, or vehicle to building capabilities. Zeeland is receiving four of the buses, while the rest are being split between Gaylord, Kalamazoo, Oxford and Three Rivers. Each school district will work with their local utilities on V2G and V2B feasibility.

The four Thomas electric buses in Ann Arbor and two in Roseville will be part of a new five-year, V2G test program that will be conducted by DTE Energy and bus dealer Hoekstra Transportation. Proterra, which provides the 60kW DC fast charger system for the Thomas Jouley, said in a statement on Thursday that its V2G program is also supported by VW funds.

Meanwhile, Swartz said a request for proposal is currently open for using $10 million in VW funds to purchase propane, diesel and hybrid school buses. The RFP closes Oct. 15, with successful applicants to be notified early next year.

Editor’s note: The latest version of this article provides additional details and corrects original reporting on the make and models of buses as well as the scheduled roll out to the school districts.

Photos courtesy of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.