District awarded hybrid diesel/electric school bus grant

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 Bullitt County Public Schools has been awarded $311,945 in federal funds for the purchase of five hybrid diesel/electric school buses.

     The grant is a pair of firsts for the district.

     It is the first application proposal prepared by Grant Writer Juliann Vachon who joined the district in August and submitted the grant in September. She collaborated with District Transportation Director Ida Prather to create an award-winning proposal.

     This is also the first time the district has made application for the hybrid/diesel electric school buses.

     "This equates to almost $312,000 worth of free hybrid equipment," said Vachon.

     The five hybrid 66-passenger school buses will be assigned to a regular route for a school year. Anticipated mileage is 23,003 miles a year for bus one, 8,295 miles a year for bus two, 13,912 miles a year for bus three, 8,733 miles a year for bus four, and 8,733 miles a year for bus five.

     "We're excited that Bullitt County Public Schools is now a part of the state-wide hybrid bus project," Vachon said. "Based on data submitted by other participating districts, the new hybrid buses are expected to boost fuel efficiency in an environmentally-friendly way."

     District Transportation Director Ida Prather said the department is, "looking at all facets of technology that will reduce cost and provide efficiency to our processes."

     The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) received approximately $12.98 million in funding for project proposals from school districts to purchase around 213 diesel/electric hybrid school buses. These vehicles are designed to conserve fuel as well as emit exhaust that complies with the state's clean air initiative.

     When a district takes receipt of a hybrid school bus, performance data will be submitted to and tracked on a quarterly basis by the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition and the KDE.

     With 125 hybrid/electric school buses on the road, Kentucky has the largest hybrid/electric school bus fleet in the nation. Not only have the school buses achieved increased route fuel efficiency with the new technology, some are achieving MPGs in the double-digits.

     According to the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition (KCFC), one of the leading organizations responsible for coordinating the hybrid/school bus program, all the school buses are fitted with Electronic Control Modules that record and store all bus performance data, including the hybrid system data. KCFC receives that information from each school district monthly and compiles the performance data, which can be viewed on their web site.

     Through August nearly 380,000 miles have been logged by the buses with an average hybrid fuel efficiency of 9.65 miles per gallon, three miles per gallon higher than the baseline fuel efficiency.

     "Kentucky's broad topographic range offers excellent opportunities for real world data from the buses," said Melissa Howell, KCFC executive director. "We hope that school systems across the country will take a look at what we are doing and use the data to help them decide if hybrid technology will provide them energy savings."

     The KCFC applied for a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2010 that would offset the cost of the hybrid system for buses.  In December of last year, $12.8 million was awarded for the purchase of 213 hybrid/electric school buses.

     The Kentucky Department of Education administers the funds which can be applied for by any Kentucky public school district.

     The buses are manufactured by ThomasBuilt and International and are equipped with an Eaton hybrid system.

     "With the data collected, we now know that the equipment is capable of achieving 12 miles per gallon, double what they were seeing with traditional diesel powered buses," said Howell. "We have proven that in the first year!"

     Bullitt County Public Schools has over 13,000 students in grades kindergarten through 12. There are 25 school facilities, a certified staff of over 850 and a classified staff of over 850 working every school day to make the district the leader in educational excellence.