Six Buses, Largest Program of Its Kind in World, Being Transformed to Electric in Poway

Inside a Poway warehouse, the first of six school buses are starting the transformation from diesel to electric.

A pilot program inspired by the Clinton Global Initiative spearheaded the initiative, and the first electric buses will be some of the first of their kinds in the world.

“Six is a small number considering there are 473,000 school buses in the U.S. today, but this project is a demonstration project, a research project to do real world testing,” said National Strategies Managing Director Kevin Matthews.

Matthews, heading the project from Washington D.C., called it a game changer.

The zero emission buses would not only benefit the environment and alleviate health concerns for kids and drivers, but could make districts money.

TransPower, a Poway based firm specializing in medium and heavy duty Electric Vehicle Technology, won the bid and has already started replacing the fuel tanks with battery tanks and the engines with electric motors.

The buses go into service this fall in the Torrance Unified School District and Napa Valley District and are the first of their kind capable of putting the stored energy in the batteries back into the grid.

Electricity prices fluctuate like the stock market, so districts could buy low and sell high, using the buses and the batteries as electrical storage units.

“School buses sit idle 80 percent of the hours in a year, meaning they don't go anywhere they sit in a parking lot, so during those idle times, using their batteries and the energy stored in them to put back on the grid when needed in order to generate revenue, so thereby reducing the total cost of ownership of an all-electric school bus when compared to that of a traditional diesel school bus,” Matthews said.

The downside to the plan is the upfront cost. Electric buses cost way more than diesel buses.
Initial projections show districts would start receiving a return on their investment after eight years.

The goal of this pilot project, once complete, is to serve as a road map for school districts around the nation interested in making the leap to zero emission technology.

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