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Ventura school district gets plug-in electric bus

January 26, 2010 |  6:30 am

Major automakers are readying a wave of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles for consumers, but one local school district is already taking advantage of the technology.

The Ventura Unified School District unveiled a $200,000, state-of-the-art, plug-in hybrid electric school bus today, the first in Southern California. The bus will start hauling students this week and replaces a polluting, 1977 model.

Venturabus The bus, built by the IC Bus division of Navistar, is powered by a lithium ion battery pack and is expected to improve fuel economy by up to 30% and reduce emissions by up to 40% over a conventional gasoline-powered school bus.

Michael Chiacos of the Community Environmental Council believes the bus will do even better, improving fuel economy by more than 60% compared to a traditional school bus.

"We are thrilled to be the first district in Southern California to have a plug-in hybrid bus," said Dr. Trudy T. Arriaga, superintendent of Ventura Unified School District. "The bus reflects our commitment to being a green school district as we ensure safe and healthy learning environments for our students. Ventura Unified School District is on the cutting edge of providing safe, healthy and environmentally sound transportation to our students."

The bus comes to the district through a nationwide initiative called the Plug-In Hybrid Electric School Bus Project. The Community Environmental Council, based in Santa Barbara, applied for funding through the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District.

“While school buses are first to the market, consumer plug-in hybrid cars will soon be available from many manufacturers,” said Chiacos, transportation specialist at the Community Environmental Council. “Plug-in hybrids and electric cars are the largest revolution in a century of vehicles. As electric motors are three times as efficient as gasoline motors, and can be powered by renewable electricity, plug-in cars will help us transition to a future free from dependence on imported fossil fuels.”

-- Jerry Hirsch

Photo: The Ventura Unified School District's new plug-in hybrid bus. Credit: Ventura Unified School District