DETROIT — DTE Energy has partnered with Ann Arbor and Roseville schools to deploy six zero-emission electric school buses. As COVID-19 has delayed in-person learning for some schools, the new electric buses will be used to deliver meals to school children through federal food assistance programs in addition to student transportation.

DTE Energy, Ann Arbor Public Schools, Roseville Community Schools, Michigan Association for Pupil Transportation (MAPT), Thomas Built Buses, Proterra and Hoekstra Transportation partnered to secure the buses. Funding for the buses was received from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) in collaboration with MAPT and the Volkswagen Beneficiary Mitigation Plan.

“We are thrilled to help deploy these electric buses as another proof point of our clean energy plan at DTE,” said Trevor Lauer, President and COO, DTE Electric. “From renewable energy deployment to our Charging Forward program offering incentives on electric vehicle chargers, our goal is to continue to lead locally and nationally on combatting climate change.  We appreciate the Ann Arbor and Roseville school districts as well as our state and business partners for working with us to further these goals.”

DTE Energy plans to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 while continuing to provide safe, reliable and affordable power to all customers. This mission drove DTE’s work in helping secure the electric buses for Ann Arbor and Roseville schools, as the buses are expected to save nearly 490 tons of greenhouse gas emissions over their lifetime, which is equivalent to the amount of carbon consumed by over 7,300 trees in 10 years.

“The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy is proud to partner with DTE and the Roseville and Ann Arbor school districts on this transformative initiative that offers a glimpse into the future of school bus transportation,” said Liesl Clark, EGLE Director. “The grants we issued for these buses not only are a forward-thinking solution to improving air quality for students and their communities, but they are also an important piece in moving the state toward the goal set by Governor Gretchen Whitmer of carbon neutrality by 2050.”

While the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) will continue student learning online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AAPS buses remain a critical component of the online learning program by transporting food to 22 distribution locations throughout the school district.

“The addition of zero-emission buses to the AAPS fleet allows this district a new opportunity to highlight clean energy solutions to the community,” said Dr. Jeanice K. Swift, Superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools. “The versatility of these buses will enable AAPS to continue to deliver over 9,000 meals to students, twice a week, many whom qualify for free or reduced lunch in the Ann Arbor Public school district.

The adaptability of these zero-emission buses has already proven to be crucial in providing community support through the pandemic. In Roseville, the buses delivered meals while students were at home learning virtually. In February, the zero-emission buses will deploy with a new purpose — transporting students to school, offering greater safety and a cleaner alternative to traditional buses.

“We are excited to partner with DTE Energy to help provide a cleaner environment,” added Mark Blaszkowski, Superintendent of Roseville Community Schools. “From runs to and from school each day, to delivering food to families during this pandemic, to giving our auto tech students a chance to see the future of transportation up-close, these buses will help to ensure we are serving the school community in whatever ways are needed.”

The new Saf-T-Liner® C2 Jouley electric school buses are estimated to provide more than 40% in savings over time on fuel and maintenance compared to traditional buses.

Designed, engineered and manufactured in the United States by Thomas Built Buses, the vehicles use battery and drivetrain technology from Proterra, a leader in heavy-duty electric transportation. Based on Proterra’s safe and reliable battery technology platform, the bus couples 220 kWh of total energy capacity with a Proterra drivetrain to offer industry-leading energy efficiency and range to meet the needs of school bus fleets.

Both schools will also receive Proterra DC Fast Chargers, which can charge the electric school buses in about three hours. During the five-year pilot of these vehicles, Hoekstra Transportation, a local dealer based in Troy, Michigan, will be instrumental in providing the school districts with additional training and support.

DTE will also initiate a Vehicle to Grid (V2G) Study in tandem with this program. The V2G study will provide valuable learnings on the effects of energy efficiency and the capabilities of the bus that are mutually beneficial for the school and the environment, such as the ability for the bus battery to provide energy to the school during a power outage. In addition, the results of the study will be used to develop programs that further benefit the schools based on the EV bus capabilities.