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Decarbonization of Student Transportation via Electric School Bus Transition

by | Jun 26, 2024

The webinar on “Decarbonization of Student Transportation via Electric School Bus Transition” offered a deep dive into the complexities and potential solutions surrounding the transition to electric school buses. The session, led by Joe Londa, Environmental SIG Leader for the System Dynamics Society, featured detailed discussions on the systemic challenges and opportunities in adopting electric school buses in New York State.

Overview and Context

Joe Londa began by providing context to the New York State mandate requiring all school districts to transition to emission-free transportation by 2035. He highlighted the enormity of the task, noting that New York has 731 school districts operating approximately 50,000 gas and diesel buses. Joe outlined the primary areas of concern: battery range, cost, and whether to outsource transportation services. He remarked, “The transition to emission-free transportation is mandated, but the pathway is fraught with challenges, particularly around battery range and costs.”

One of the innovative approaches discussed was involving high school students in the project to develop a transition model. As Joe explained, “Students are key stakeholders in transportation, and involving them hands-on in developing analytical models gives them new skills and a sense of ownership.” Ten students from five districts participated in creating a Google Sheets-based model to simulate various transition scenarios.

Key Takeaways from the Webinar

  1. Battery Range and Charging Infrastructure: The transition to electric school buses brings significant anxiety regarding battery range. Joe emphasized the critical nature of this concern: “Stranding students on the road is not an option.” The model developed included an analysis of route lengths and battery consumption to address these concerns.

  2. Cost Considerations: Electric school buses currently cost twice as much as their diesel counterparts. Joe noted, “Early adopters will pay the highest prices, but they will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions sooner.” The model incorporated cost forecast scenarios to help districts plan financially.

  3. Optimization of Bus Routes: The model also explored optimizing bus routes and sizes to ensure efficient use of electric buses. This analysis is crucial for districts with varying needs based on urban, suburban, and rural settings.

  4. Challenges in Data Collection: Despite efforts, obtaining detailed data from school districts proved difficult. Joe shared his frustrations: “Superintendents and transportation directors were not very responsive to students’ data requests, leading to some frustration.” This highlighted a significant barrier in collaborative efforts.

This seminar underscores the importance of collaborative efforts in addressing local challenges for global problems like climate change, with a particular focus on sustainable transportation solutions.

Watch the recording below

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About the Speaker

Joseph Londa, who after a distinguished 40-year career in technology at IBM and HCL Software, now runs the Gunks EcoLodge, a Net Zero Energy, fossil fuel-free retreat in the state of New York. Beyond his role as an innkeeper, Joseph is deeply committed to environmental sustainability, volunteering in his community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and leading the Environmental SIG of the System Dynamics Society.

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