Major automakers are readying a wave of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles for consumers, but one local school district is already taking advantage of the technology.
The Ventura Unified School District unveiled a $200,000, state-of-the-art, plug-in hybrid electric school bus Tuesday, the first in Southern California. The bus will start hauling students this week and replaces a polluting, 1977 model.
The bus, built by the IC Bus subsidiary of Navistar Inc., is powered by a lithium ion battery pack and is expected to improve fuel economy up to 30% and reduce emissions up to 40% over a conventional gasoline-powered school bus.
Michael Chiacos, transportation specialist with the Community Environmental Council in Santa Barbara, believes the bus will do even better, improving fuel economy more than 60% compared with a traditional school bus.
"The bus reflects our commitment to being a green school district as we ensure safe and healthy learning environments for our students," said Trudy T. Arriaga, superintendent of Ventura Unified School District. The district "is on the cutting edge of providing safe, healthy and environmentally sound transportation to our students."
The bus comes to the district through a nationwide initiative called the Plug-In Hybrid Electric School Bus Project. The Community Environmental Council applied for funding through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District.
"While school buses are first to the market, consumer plug-in hybrid cars will soon be available from many manufacturers," Chiacos said.
"Plug-in hybrids and electric cars are the largest revolution in a century of vehicles," he said. They "will help us transition to a future free from dependence on imported fossil fuels."