New electric bus unveiled

A group of elected officials and school representatives pose with the district's new electric bus on Dec. 15, 2022.

Dearborn Public Schools on Thursday unveiled the district’s first electric school bus.

The state-of-the-art bus is the first of what is expected to become numerous electric buses in the district.  The district received an advanced Blue Bird All American RE electric school bus.  It is the first electric bus Blue Bird has delivered to Michigan and can be recognized by the green Blue Bird logo with an electric plug along the top of the sides.  The bus can carry up to 84 passengers and travel up to 120 miles on a single charge.

“We are thrilled to add the first electrical bus to our fleet and to test the school bus in our real-world environment year round,” said Superintendent Glenn Maleyko. “Electric school buses help in reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Today marks an important step as we start to evaluate this new technology.”

The bus was unveiled during a special event on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022 at the Fairlane Estate in Dearborn.  Fairlane was home to Henry and Clara Ford.  While better known for his internal combustion engines, Henry Ford also experimented with electric vehicles. His wife, Clara, was known to drive an electric vehicle.

Dearborn Public Schools has a fleet of 70 Blue Bird buses.  Adding electric vehicles will help the district reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions while improving student and community health.

The first bus was funded with a mix of federal grant dollars and district funds.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provided an initial grant of $300,000 through the American Rescue Plan Electric School Bus Rebate program.  The program is intended to replace older diesel school buses with zero-emissions electric buses.  The district will also contribute about $100,000 to the final cost of the first bus, making the total bill to Dearborn Schools similar to what a traditional school bus costs to buy.

Last month, the EPA announced the district would be eligible for $7.1 million in funding to buy up to 18 additional electric school buses through the 2022 Clean School Bus Rebate program.  The EPA classified Dearborn Public Schools as a priority district since about 70 percent of the families in the district are low-income.

The grant is part of $1 billion the EPA is providing across the country this year to support the purchase of more electric school buses. The receiving districts can get up to $375,000 per bus purchased plus $20,000 to add charging infrastructure to support the buses.  The funding is intended to help districts replace older, polluting buses with new zero-emission vehicles.  Dearborn needs upgrades to its Transportation facilities to be able to charge the new electric buses.

The district anticipates significant cost savings in operating the buses.  Blue Bird reports that customers typically spend about 14 cents a mile on energy costs for electric buses, compared to up to 49 cents per mile for traditional diesel buses.

Dearborn Schools runs 56 bus routes every day taking students to and from school.  About 5,500 students ride a district bus to and from school, which equates to about 990,000 student trips a year.  Thousands of other student trips are made for field trips, athletic events and shuttles between the high schools and the Dearborn Heights campus.

Dr. Maleyko said that in addition to reducing emissions and lowering energy costs, adding electric buses serves as a practical lesson for students.

“I think for our students the lesson, too, is being good stewards of the environment and this is another way that we’re being role models,” Dr. Malyeko said.