The bus will be used to transport students to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.
The bus runs on a hybrid technology similar to that used in a Ford Escape. An electric motor will run the bus up to a speed of 25 mph with the standard diesel engine kicking in after that.
“We've found on the passenger-car side that the hybrids are lasting a lot longer than a conventionally fueled vehicle because there's not as much wear and tear on the internal combustion engine because the electric motor is helping so much,” said LCPS Fleet Services Manager Josh Lunsford.
“Other than the (hybrid) logo on the bus, the public is not going to know the difference from the bus you currently operate,” said Merryman. (The bus also bears the luckiest number in the LCPS fleet, 777. It was designed to have a distinctive green trim – instead of the usual black – but the Commonwealth of Virginia would not approve the color change.)
And here is the text of an email response sent to a citizen from the LCPS Public Information Office:
[LCPS Press Release]
There are now a dozen of these buses in use nationwide. That's why the price is so high. It's similar to when personal computers came out 15 years ago. What you could buy for $3,000 then costs less than $1,000 now. We anticipate the cost of these buses to drop significantly as they go into mass production.
The reason we purchased this bus is two-fold:
We're a green school system. Through a concerted energy conservation program covering more than 15 years, we have saved the taxpayers of Loudoun County more than $30 million. Investing in new technology is no small part of these savings.
As a pilot user of these buses we are able to conduct a long-term study of their effectiveness. This will allow us to decide if it is worthwhile purchasing more of these buses when it is time to turn over parts of our fleet. We want to make a reasoned, scientifically based decision when it comes to future purchases.
We did pay a 37.5 percent premium for this bus. Its fuel efficiency is billed as 27.3 percent higher. Given a 12-year lifespan, this could very well produce a net savings. (The varying price of fuel will greatly affect this calculation.) We won't know what it's capable of until we do a long-term analysis.
Feb 1st Update from the LCPS Public Information Office:
This bus was purchased with credits received and accumulated when LCPS turned in older, no-longer-useful, buses to Sonny Merryman, Inc., our vendor. We used these credits to investigate a new technology.
Loudoun County Public Schools has a history of stewardship in exploring and implementing sustainable environmental initiatives, including the use of alternative-fuel vehicles. During the past 15 years, LCPS has attained $30 million in cost avoidance through a comprehensive energy management program. Purchasing and testing new technology, such as the hybrid bus, is in keeping with this program.
All of the companies involved in the manufacture of this bus have given us diagnostic equipment to measure whether the bus is living up to its advertised potential. LCPS will be an in excellent position to capitalize on this technology should it prove effective and when the price of the buses comes down when they go into mass production. LCPS has gained significant savings through the years by working with vendors in exploring prototypes.
If the bus performs as advertised, it will use 920 gallons less in diesel fuel and emit 9.5 metric tons fewer carbon expenditures per year when compared to a conventional bus. Should the technology be all its cracked up to be, this could be a huge cost savings and have a positive effect on our environment when, or if, the buses become a standard part of our fleet.