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Two metro Atlanta school systems to receive electric buses

APS leaders hope the electric buses can reduce their bus fleet's carbon footprint and reduce diesel vehicle exhaust -- a known carcinogen.

ATLANTA — Two metro Atlanta school districts are getting electric school buses. Atlanta Public Schools and the Clayton County School District are two of 15 school systems in the state to receive federal funding for the EV buses.

For APS specifically, the federal government is awarding a nearly $10 million grant in an effort to minimize pollutants from diesel buses.

Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring said 25 of their more than 400 diesel buses will be replaced. She along with Congresswoman Nikema Williams made the announcement at Dunbar Elementary School.

Student Ahli Durgurt has high expectations.

"I think they're going to be just like the Teslas, but a bus," Durgurt added. "Better quality for the Earth."

However, first grader Mikayla Cole understands it's better for the environment.

"It could be fun because it's an electric bus," Cole said.

Herring said the buses are expected to arrive by the end of the year.

"We've already put in the purchasing order for that and also the charging stations needed for our depots," Herring said. "The $9.9 million, in itself, is a return on an investment for us -- not only is it a savings but it's also an opportunity to impact our larger community."

APS leaders hope the electric buses can reduce their bus fleet's carbon footprint and reduce diesel vehicle exhaust -- a known carcinogen.

Cary Ritzler with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said there's a big difference between diesel and electric vehicles.

"A diesel bus will be emitting fumes as it drives through the neighborhood outside of the bus, and also fumes that come inside of the bus and expose children inside, on the bus, up to four times the amount that a regular vehicle would," Ritzler said. "An eclectic vehicle will have none of those emissions."

The downside: it could cost more to maintain them with higher initial investment. However, Ritzler said electric buses are more fuel-efficient and cheaper over their lifetime and will save school districts money.

"You don't have to do things like change the oil because there is no oil in the engine. And the engine is just simpler than a combustion engine," Ritzler said. "So, there is just not the need to make the kind of repairs that we have on combustion engines. So, repairs are less expensive. The fuel is less expensive." 

Herring said the grant will take care of related expenses.

"In totality, all of the funds that will allow for us to make those purchases, again, the charging stations, and the buses, and the installation -- it is covered by grant funding," Herring said.

Overall, Ritzler said it's better for the children. A study on Science Direct shows that when students ride buses with reduced emissions, it boosts English and math academic achievement and it improves respiratory health.

"We can save the Earth and the plants can grow, and so we can get more oxygen," Durgurt said.

Herring said the new bus wheels will start going 'round and 'round in time for the 2024 school year.

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