Crystal Lake school districts secure grant to purchase 4 electric buses

Electric buses expect to hit the road in 2026

A Community High School District 155 and Crystal Lake School District 47 bus heads out on a route Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, from the Transportation Joint Agreement’s bus garage at 1204 S. McHenry Ave. in Crystal Lake.

Crystal Lake School District 47 and Community High School District 155 approved a $1.6 million grant from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to purchase four electric buses and chargers.

The Illinois EPA’s Driving a Cleaner Illinois grant program distributes funds through the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust to electrify vehicles and reduce emissions, according to a District 47 news release. The elementary and high school districts run a joint transportation system to provide busing to their 18 schools.

Approximately $108 million is distributed throughout Illinois from 2016 and 2017 Volkswagen diesel emissions settlements with the EPA. Complaints alleged that Volkswagen sold nearly 600,000 diesel automobiles from 2009 to 2016 that were equipped with computer software that cheated federal emissions tests.

Districts 47 and 155 secured $1.68 million to replace four diesel school buses with 2024 model electric buses. The buses are expected to be operational by June 2026, according to the release.

“While electric school buses come with a higher upfront cost, they offer substantial savings in fuel and maintenance expenses over their operational lifetimes,” a news release from the districts said. “These state-of-the-art electric buses will significantly contribute to District 47 and District 155′s commitment to sustainable transportation solutions and creating a healthy environment for students.”

The districts’ transportation system, headquartered at 1204 McHenry Ave. in Crystal Lake, is planning for necessary infrastructure updates to accommodate the electric buses. Owned and operated by both District 47 and 155 since 1974, the Transportation Joint Agreement is overseen by an advisory board made up of school officials from both districts. It has 115 school buses, 130 employees and transports approximately 12,000 students per day, according to the release.

“We are thrilled to be able to take this step towards a more sustainable future for TJA,” District 47 Superintendent Kathy Hinz said in the release. “These buses will not only reduce emissions from our school facilities, but prioritize the health and well-being of our students. By replacing diesel buses with electric ones, we’re taking a significant step towards a cleaner, healthier future for both our climate and our kids.”

McHenry County was listed as one of the top priority areas for the electric school bus grants along with Cook and the other collar counties of DuPage, Lake, Kane and Will counties, according to a news release from the State of Illinois.

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