HOWARD COUNTY, MD — In the hopes of improving air quality, the Howard County Public School System will participate in a pilot program using two electric school buses that will replace two diesel-powered vehicles currently being used. The $812,377 pilot project cost is supported by an MDE grant of $494,377, which is made possible through the agency’s program supporting zero emission vehicle infrastructure projects. Matching funding of $318,000 represents commitments from project partners MBG Enterprises, an HCPSS bus vendor, for the cost of two conventional school buses and BGE, which is contributing the bus charging infrastructure and installation.
MBG, which currently operates 22 school buses for HCPSS, will maintain and operate the electric buses. The company has prior experience operating ZEVs and implementing emissions reductions measures. BGE owns and operates the first utility-owned electric bus fleet in the nation and has substantial expertise in transportation electrification and managing an electric vehicle fleet.
“This program represents an essential first step toward use of more environmentally friendly vehicles, which are so important both for the wellness of our students and community, and the health of our environment,” said HCPSS Superintendent Michael J. Martirano in a news release.
HCPSS is working toward alignment with Howard County government’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030, and to reach zero emissions by 2050. One of the electric vehicles is assigned to transport students attending Wilde Lake Middle School, Maryland’s first net zero school building. The pilot program supports environmental education, and students will be encouraged to learn about the electric buses and the impact of vehicle emissions on the environment.
The two electric buses will be rotated among bus routes to various schools and the buses will be made available for students’ use in energy research and conservation projects. Data will be collected on energy use and efficiency, which BGE will analyze to assess the vehicles’ performance in terms of peak load reduction, grid balancing, battery resiliency and other factors.
“This partnership between Howard County Public Schools, MBG Enterprises and BGE will bring clean transportation to the county and help us all understand how this technology can best be utilized to benefit the community,” said Divesh Gupta, director of strategy, BGE Utility of the Future. “Electric school buses will lead to cleaner air, a lower cost of operations and a stronger and more reliable electric grid for students, families and the entire county.”
HCPSS school bus contractors operate 478 buses for daily student transportation service, traveling more than 31,000 miles each day. Most Howard County school buses are powered by diesel engines. The electric bus project will continue through June 2021.