Princeton Public School officials ‘not giving up’ on funding for EV buses after grant application denied

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The Princeton Public Schools’ grant application for funding to purchase four electric school buses has been denied by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus program.

But officials are not giving up.

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With the help of Sustainable Princeton, officials are looking into funding from the New Jersey Zero-Emission Incentive Program – NJZIP – through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

NJZIP is offering a $90 million pilot program for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, according to www.njeda.com. It would provide vouchers ranging between $20,000 and $175,000. The program is due to launch statewide in spring 2023.

Funding for the pilot program comes from Regional Green House Gas Initiative proceeds allocated to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority for the purpose of reducing harmful emissions and to encourage the adoption and use of zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.

The school district had applied for funding through the U.S. Enviromental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean School Bus program to 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, but its application was denied, officials said.

The school buses are due to be placed 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.

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

A mid-size EV school bus costs $239,000, while a comparable gasoline engine school bus costs $80,945, according to the presentation.

A mid-size EV wheelchair-compatible school bus would cost $255,144, while its gasoline engine counterpart costs $94,593.

Grants would help to reduce the costs of the EV school buses, officials said. EV charging stations also would have to be installed to charge the school buses’ batteries. A Level 2 charger, for example, would charge the battery overnight.

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

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