Electric Schoolbus
Our Votes? Not in a Million Years!

Our Votes? Not in a Million Years!

By: Chandu Visweswariah

[Editor’s note: Proposition numbers were updated in keeping with updated Bond Proposition numbering on 4/13/2021 and funding details were updated on 5/3/2021.]

The Croton School District (Westchester County, New York) is placing the following transportation bond propositions on the May 18, 2021 ballot:

Proposition 1: Authorization to borrow money for 2 diesel buses and one “impractical” charger (Croton100 recommends a NO vote, more about the charger later in this blog).

Proposition 2: A 66-passenger electric bus (Croton100 recommends a YES vote).

Proposition 3: A 27-passenger electric bus (Croton100 recommends a YES vote).

Proposition 4: Another 27-passenger electric bus (Croton100 recommends a YES vote).

While our website (croton100.org) has plenty of voter education material, we examine in this blog how different voter proclivity types may approach the transportation bond propositions. We invite you to ask yourself what your hot-button issues are and read the corresponding analysis below.

Are you a fiscal conservative? Are you worried about property taxes?

The School has an obligation to provide student transportation but must do so safely and at the lowest possible cost as a good steward of public money. The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of electric buses is lower than diesel or gas buses, depending on subidies. Although the up-front price is higher, lower maintenance and fuel costs reduce the total cost over the lifetime of the bus. The up-front price is blunted by three factors: generous New York state funding which reduces the incremental price of the bus, low-cost bond-based borrowing and State aid at 36% of the bond amount. In fact, the savings in maintenance and fuel is more than the additional cost of servicing the borrowed amount (depending on subsidy), so the electric option is better from day one. The School spends a lot of money on in-house maintenance and fuel today – they must move to a lower cost system.

By buying diesel buses rather than the electric buses in Propositions 2, 3 and 4 we will miss out on nearly $450,000 in subsidies and State transportation aid. There is a fixed amount of money in the State-wide subsidy fund that may be drained by other School Districts, so we may not qualify next year.

So, would you as a fiscal conservative concerned about property taxes vote yes on Proposition 1 (authorizing diesel buses)?

NOT IN A MILLION YEARS!

Do you care about children’s health?

Diesel buses emit both CO2 and particulate pollution that are harmful to the health of our children, our staff, and the communities where the buses operate. Studies have shown that children who commute in diesel buses have poorer health, more absenteeism and even poorer grades than those who don’t.

So, would you as a children’s advocate vote yes on Proposition 1 (authorizing diesel buses)?

NOT IN A MILLION YEARS!

Are you a “practical parent” that feels we should give the School the resources they need?

The School says that the two smaller buses are “must-haves” by September, and that there is uncertainty regarding the ability to procure electric equivalents. Hence the School wants at the very least to get authorization for two diesel buses. This is why Propositions 2, 3 and 4 (electric buses) are contingent on Proposition 1 (diesel buses).

The most practical thing we can do to help the School is to hasten electrification by voting NO on Proposition 1 and YES on 2, 3 and 4, for the following reasons:

·         Croton100 has worked extensively with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA, the funding agency). NYSERDA has not only promised to process the School’s completed voucher application within four weeks, but Croton100 has created a glide path by getting approvals in principle for two buses from NYSERDA. Prospective bus vendors that would manage the voucher process are eager to bring electric school bus wheels to Croton by the start of the new school year. Hence, funding opportunities have been researched thoroughly.

·         Electric buses are readily available if the School would only put in Purchase Orders soon. The School has dragged its feet on issuing Requests for Proposals (RFPs) or Purchase Orders for over a year (and if you recall, they walked away from generous electric bus funding last year and bought a gas bus). Bus vendors have said they are willing to accept purchase orders conditioned on approval of NYSERDA funding and voter approval. The School’s preferred bus vendor even offered to provide a temporary diesel bus for a couple of months as a stopgap if an electric bus was not ready for delivery. If the School continues to wait without issuing Purchase Orders and declines to exercise flexibility in practical ways to meet its transportation needs with electric buses, it is tantamount to making diesel buses the only viable solution.

·         The School will not embrace electric choices until the community definitively votes down diesel buses – this is the fastest way to get the School the buses it needs.

So, would you as a practical parent vote yes on Proposition 1 (authorizing diesel buses)?

NOT IN A MILLION YEARS!

Are you an environmentalist who cares about global warming?

The School District is one of the biggest CO2 emitters in our community. We must start decarbonizing with a sense of urgency. The generous funding that is available makes NOW the perfect time to begin the journey of electrifying our school’s 58-vehicle fleet, especially because this funding may not be available next year. Purchase of a diesel or gas bus means that we will continue to pollute for the next 10 to 12 years, which we simply cannot afford to do. It is too much of a burden to have the next Hurricane Harvey or polar vortex or forest fire or hottest year on record on our collective consciences.

So, would you as an environmentalist vote yes on Proposition 1 (authorizing diesel buses)?

NOT IN A MILLION YEARS!

So, what’s the fuss about the charger?

The School has tucked $65,000 for a level 3 (L3) charger into the spending authorization in Proposition 1. There is strong agreement that this is not the right solution to the School’s charging needs and is a waste of money. The School has unfortunately ignored the opinion of its own Bus Electrification Task Force members and knowledgeable members of the community. Experts in the community, consultants, industry reports and fleet-charging vendors like EverCharge completely agree that we need a set of network-connected L2 chargers at a small fraction of the cost.

Does this impractical charger request add to your desire to vote for Proposition 1?

NOT IN A MILLION YEARS!

I don’t live in Croton, why should I care?

Croton represents a microcosm of a worldwide debate that will ensue. Should we embrace new but proven electric bus technology? Should we care about the health of our children? Should we move to a much lower maintenance and fuel cost structure even though up-front price is higher? Should we stop adding to the carbon in the atmosphere? Speak to your School’s transportation supervisor, speak to your municipality about their vehicle fleet, speak to your police department, speak to your fire department, speak to your sanitation department and help them all develop electrification plans.

Conclusion: vote NO on Proposition 1. Say no to fossil fuel buses. Tell the School “MY VOTE? NOT IN A MILLION YEARS!”

1 thought on “Our Votes? Not in a Million Years!

    • Author gravatar

      Electric School bus is among the most promising EV technology among host of Medium and Heavy Duty Fleet electrification option. Further, electric school buses is the only solution which has potential to be used for grid service in the future meaning more revenue opportunities for the bus owners. Chargers for the bus are evolving and while DCFC are best option if you don’t have tome to charge your fleet. In school bus use case you should be able to provide substantial charging using L2 chargers with May be 1 in 3 DCFC to address cold weather and emergency use requirements.

      If NYSERDA has agreed for the voucher, it’s no brainer to go for Electric School Bus.

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