Carmel Clay Schools in Indiana adds a Blue Bird electric bus to its fleet as part of a pilot and...

Carmel Clay Schools in Indiana adds a Blue Bird electric bus to its fleet as part of a pilot and an overall initiative to move to alternative-fuel buses.

Photo courtesy Blue Bird

CARMEL, Ind. — Carmel Clay Schools welcomed on Wednesday the first electric school bus in Indiana into its fleet as part of a pilot and overall initiative to move to greener, alternative-fuel buses.

The bus was built by Blue Bird and is powered by the Cummins PowerDrive system, according to a news release from the school bus manufacturer.

“Carmel Clay Schools has been pursuing alternatively-fueled school buses for several years, and we see this as another step in expanding our efforts by introducing this zero-emission electric school bus into our fleet,” said Ron Farrand, the director of facilities and transportation for the district. “We believe it is important as a pilot project to show how this electric bus will perform and to further reduce [nitrogen oxide] NOx and other emissions in our school district.”

Carmel Clay Schools purchased the bus using the Carmel Clay School Bus Replacement Fund and with help from the Indiana Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund administered by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. Since the bus is 100% powered by electricity, it emits zero emissions of substances such as NOx, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and volatile organic compounds and hydrocarbons.

South Shore Clean Cities developed and submitted the grant application and serves as project manager for the electric school bus project, according to Blue Bird. In that role, South Shore Clean Cities worked with infrastructure providers and school officials to provide critical education on charging infrastructure, charging best practices for energy efficiency, and maximum range and reliability. The nonprofit is also managing the destruction of the diesel bus the new electric bus is replacing as well as required reporting and metrics.

The data collected from this project will be used to serve as an example to help other school districts that are considering adding school buses to their fleets.

“We applaud Carmel Clay Schools’ administration and school board for their leadership in supporting sustainable transportation to improve air quality for their students as well as all of the residents in the district,” said Ryan Lisek, project manager for South Shore Clean Cities.

The district installed two charging stations — one at its east side lot and one at its bus garage — to allow the bus to recharge in the same location where maintenance tasks are performed. An electric bus does not require conventional fuel, air filters, and transmission service, and, according to Blue Bird, offers comparable performance to a traditional internal combustion engine.

“It’s always exciting to be part of the introduction of the first electric-powered school bus in a state,” said Mark Terry, chief commercial officer of Blue Bird Corp. “This one bus is bound to lead to more positive changes and we are looking forward to seeing the favorable environmental impacts this bus will have, as well as the maintenance and fuel cost savings the district will experience.”

“We are incredibly excited and proud to have a Cummins-powered Blue Bird electric school bus serving students right here in our backyard,” said Vinoo Thomas, general manager of electrified powertrain systems at Cummins, which is headquartered in Columbus, Ind., approximately 60 miles south of Carmel. “School districts like Carmel Clay continue to push our communities forward as they invest in clean, safe, reliable transportation options for our children.”

The district had already begun implementing alternative-fuel solutions into its fleet, with 24 of its existing buses being powered by propane. The district plans to introduce more alternative-fueled — including electric — buses in the future, to create cleaner air for its students and communities.