One Wisconsin school bus contractor unveiled its new solar re-charging station as another local company broke ground on a similar facility with the help of $15 million in U.S. Department of Energy Clean Cities grants, which will bring the number of plug-in hybrid school buses statewide to 24, the most in the country.
Gov. Jim Doyle and the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence heralded the largest plug-in hybrid fleet in the nation after a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Aug. 25 at Oconomowoc Transport Company and the unveiling of a similar solar charging site at Riteway Bus Service later that afternoon.
In addition to improved fuel efficiency, the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence said plug-in hybrid school buses last longer, have lower maintenance costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 to 40 percent. Both solar charging stations will also generate more than 60,000 kWh of energy annually, which is enough to keep the batteries fully charged or enough to power 6 average size homes.
Oconomowoc and Riteway both benefited from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds awarded last year to the Wisconsin Clean Transportation Program, which is administered by the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence and the Wisconsin Clean Cities, Southeast Area.
“Next week children in Oconomowoc School District will be riding to school on sunshine,” said Sandy Syburg, president at Oconomowoc Transport, which transports 3,800 local students each day. “Hopefully it won’t be the largest fleet for long,. I think there will be momentum in the field.”
The 11 new plug-in hybrids were charging as the afternoon. Syberg said the buses are expected to be fully charged in about six to eight hours. Syburg added that, despite cold winter temperatures in Wisconsin, the buses will still receive ample solar charging throughout the year.
Syburg added that both IC Bus and Enova Systems, the manufacturer of the plug-in hybrid drive train, confirmed that Wisconsin will soon surpass Ohio as the state with the largest fleet of the school buses. Wisconsin will have 24 of the alternative fuel buses compared to Ohio’s current tally of six, that is after Riteway Bus receives 13 plug-in hybrid electrics.
A company spokesperson said the 13 plug-in hybrid electrics Riteway will receive in February will also fuel up via the sun once the new solar facility is completed in November.