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Princeton school district applies for federal grant to add electric school buses to transportation fleet

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Grants may help the Princeton Public Schools add four electric school buses to their transportation fleet.

The Princeton Public Schools Board of Education approved an $880,000 grant application to the U.S. Environmntal Protection Agency (EPA) Clean School Bus program at a meeting in August. An additional grant application for $52,000 also was submitted to help pay for installing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations for the buses.

The Princeton Public Schools will learn whether the grant application has been approved in October.

The addition of the EV school buses would replace two full-size diesel engine school buses, one mid-size gasoline engine school bus and one mid-size wheelchair-compatible gasoline engine school bus, officials said. They are due to be replaced during the 2023-24 school year because they will have reached the end of their useful life, officials said.

A full-size bus accommodates 54 passengers. A regular mid-size bus and a wheelchair-compatible mid-size bus seats 20 to 30 passengers.

The Princeton Public Schools bus fleet includes 28 school buses, plus five minivans that are used for non-public runs, officials said. The district is eligible to receive rebates of $190,000 to $250,000 per EV school bus, depending on its size and class, officials said.

A full-size EV school bus costs $395,000 and a comparable diesel school bus costs $145,000, according to Sustainable Princeton’s presentation to the school board’s Operations Committee in August.

A $250,000 rebate, if the grant application is approved, would reduce the cost of a full-size EV school bus to $145,000 – the same cost as a full-size diesel school bus, according to Sustainable Princeton.

A mid-size gasoline school bus costs $80,945, while a mid-size EV school bus costs $239,000, Sustainable Princeton said. A $190,000 rebate means the mid-size EV school bus would cost $49,000.

A mid-size wheelchair-accessible gasoline school bus costs $94,593, but a comparable mid-size wheelchair-accessible EV school bus costs $255,144. A $190,000 rebate would reduce the cost of a wheelchair-accessible EV school bus to $65,114, according to Sustainable Princeton.

Installing four EV Level 2 charging stations at the administration building for the electric school buses would cost about $136,000, Sustainable Princeton said. The grant application for $52,000 would reduce the cost to $84,000.

The Bluebird Vision electric bus has a range of 120 miles per charge depending on the drive cycle, driver behavior, accessories and HVAC (heating, ventilation, air condition) usage. The four school buses slated for replacement average about 12 to 55 miles per day, according to Sustainable Princeton.

A Level 2 charger could fully charge the battery overnight, officials said.

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