It’s back to school season, but how will all those kids actually get back to school? Public education budgets around the country are tight and many school districts are slashing spending on transportation, reducing or eliminating the school bus.
One city in Wisconsin is taking a different approach, incorporating hybrid buses in its fleet of vehicles in order to save money on fuel even as it reduces emissions. Oconomowoc, in southern Wisconsin, is introducing 11 hybrid school buses and installed a solar charging station. Estimated savings: About 7,500 gallons or $22,500 a year. And, because the buses travel about twice as far as a conventional bus on a tank of fuel, maintenance costs are expected to be lower as well. It all adds up to a lot of resources that could be spent on pencils, paper and books.
And speaking of books, programs like the one being unveiled in Wisconsin achieve more than just saving money and emissions. At a time that schools around the country are trying to teach sustainability, those that practice what they teach are bound to be more effective. Moreover, when cash-strapped schools find creative ways to preserve bus services, they are serving the community by reducing the number of cars clogging the roads making those quick trips to and from school.
In case you ever wondered why we don’t have more solar-powered cars, trucks and vehicles on our roads, these vehicles have traditionally posed multiple challenges with design, since they have only so much surface space to soak up the sun. Early prototypes have been described as tabletops on wheels, with so much space taken up with solar panels that there was barely any room left for a driver.
But while the concept of a completely self-sufficient solar car never took off, solar technology is being incorporated into hybrid plug-in vehicles more and more. The 2010 Toyota Prius incorporates solar panels used to power the car’s ventilation system, and electric and hybrid vehicles will increasingly be able to recharge at solar-powered charging stations.