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EPA awards grant to Harvey School for hybrid bus

HARVEY — Harvey School District #38 has been selected to receive funding through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program Grants Competition to fund the addition of a hybrid bus to the district’s fleet.

Harvey Public Schools Superintendent Robert Lukens said the program first came on his radar after he was a part of the national superintendents cohort at the national conference for the American Association of School Administrators.

“I had been briefed on it at the national conferences and knew what it was about. I knew the ins and outs of that process going in. So when I took this job as a first time superintendent in July, and I saw it in the School Board Association minutes, I knew it was something we could take advantage of,” Lukens said. “We are in a time when school funding is not keeping up with inflation. So you’ve got to evaluate these grants and these opportunities to upgrade your fleets with a watchful eye.”

The $5 billion Clean Bus Program was created as a part of President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and included grant and rebate programs to incentivize the adoption of low or zero emission vehicles. Harlow’s Bus Sales will receive $13,622,375 to purchase 41 clean buses for schools in Montana in addition to the hybrid bus for Harvey.

Lukens said that one of the district’s diesel buses would be phased out and replaced by the hybrid in the new year.

“I began researching this back in September, but I haven’t gotten the official letter saying we were approved, so we haven’t even had a board motion to celebrate it,” Lukens said.

Lukens credited the Harvey School Board for considering his proposal, and thanked school bus manufacturer Harlow’s for its guidance in pursuing the grant and Otter Tail Power for providing an additional grant to pay for a charger to be placed in the district’s bus barn.

Harvey joins a number of rural districts in North Dakota like Glen Ullin, Enderlin and Mapleton that have taken advantage of the opportunity to upgrade their fleets through the EPA program in recent years. While a majority of the clean buses acquired through the program have been fully electric, Harvey will be getting a hybrid bus that utilizes both an electric and gas engine.

Lukens said the hybrid Harlow’s bus was more suited to the district’s purposes, as the grant requires the bus to be used as a general route bus for five years.

The hybrid system was better suited to the task of handling the longer bus routes in the district according to Lukens, as it shifts from electric power to the gas engine after the first 50 miles. The gas engine pulls double duty as it handles all heating and power requirements during the winter months as both tasks which would otherwise cause quite a drain on the available power in a full electric system. Lukens said the decision to forgo seeking a full electric bus was more practical and would hopefully extend the 60,000-mile lifespan of the batteries before they have to be phased out and replaced.

“It fit what we needed in Harvey,” Luken said. “In my research I found the thing that limits electric buses in our area is you got to run the heater. In the case of a hybrid like this, we’re not going to have that problem.”

Lukens expected the bus to be delivered sometime this summer and ready to be added to the district’s fleet in time for the fall term in August.

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