‘Cleaning’ up Tucson’s school buses

Cleaner, greener school buses leaders discuss ways to cut pollution

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson area school districts will be getting 80 new school buses thanks to a $14 billion legal settlement from a lawsuit against Volkswagen.

Arizona will get $57 million, which will be used to pay for clean energy school buses, especially for smaller districts that could never afford them.

The fact that districts will now be in the market for clean energy vehicles, has the Pima Association of Government Clean Cities Coalition looking at what might be some of the best alternatives for the Tucson area.

Some districts, such as Amphitheater and the Tucson Unified School District, have started converting their fleets but it's a long, expensive project.

Right now, 90 percent of the buses in TUSD’s fleet are still diesel or gasoline powered, a majority by diesel.

"It's difficult for them to put money into a new fleet or upgrading that fleet," said Colleen Crowninsheld, the manager of the coalition. "That's the last of their worries right now."

TUSD, like many districts, is facing a budget crunch which limits where money can be spent.

"Now we have the VW settlement funds coming through here, we have the opportunity for those districts to have financial assistance to move their fleet to cleaner, better fuels," Crowninshield said.

But it's only a start and small part of what would be needed to make school bus fleet conversions.

The coalition is and has been inviting representatives from several providers to get a sense of what works best for Tucson.

On this day, Jim Reynolds, President and CEO of Adomani, which provides equipment for electric school buses, addressed the group on the values of electric over others.

“The savings on fuel and maintenance is anywhere from $15,000 to $18,000 a year,” Reynolds said. “The average school bus lasts 15 to 20 years, so a tremendous savings in fuel and maintenance.”

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