Mid-Atlantic Electric School Bus Experience Project
These days, it seems like every automaker offers a plug-in electric model. Well now, we’re seeing an upturn in the number of larger passenger vehicles making that EV switch too. So, for millions of school students, that means their ride to school is about to get cleaner and quieter.
Nearly every day, in virtually every community and neighborhood around the country, 500,000 yellow buses hit the streets, transporting 26 million children to and from school. Taken as a whole, school buses make up the nation’s largest public transportation network, but about 95% of those buses run on diesel fuel. That puts the most vulnerable members of our populace at risk for respiratory problems and other issues linked to breathing exhaust fumes.
The recent growth of electrification for cars and trucks presents an opportunity to change that, and the recent infrastructure law includes two and a half billion dollars in federal aid, specifically to help school districts purchase zero-emission electric school buses and an equal amount for other low emission and electrified vehicles.
But making the electric switch requires education for those who will manufacture, purchase and use those buses, and that’s where programs like MEEP come into play. Meep is the Mid-Atlantic Electric School Bus Experience Project, spearheaded by the Virginia Clean Cities coalition and begun with funding from the US Department of Energy in 2019.
MEEP is working with bus manufacturers, school districts, and other partners to provide hands-on experience and extended demonstration loans of electric school buses to school bus fleets throughout Virginia, Maryland, DC, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey over the next two years.
ALLEYN HARNED: We’ve kicked off the program and already done more than twenty successful demonstrations, as well as six virtual events. This has led to the deployment of 100 electric school buses within the region.
JOHN DAVIS: This bus, known as Jouley, is manufactured by Thomas Built Buses in North Carolina, using an electric propulsion system developed by Proterra, and already proven through 8 million service miles on electric transit buses across America. Jouley has a driving range of about 138 miles and can recharge in just 3 hours using a DC fast charger.
JIM BEASLEY: Well, the routes that it runs. It runs in the AM and the PM mostly, predominantly. They’re easy to charge because there’s downtime in between, and they’re sitting overnight. They’re quiet, they run through the neighborhoods, and they’re non-polluters.
JOHN DAVIS: the electrification of school buses is gaining a groundswell of support from community leaders, parents and the students themselves.
SPEAKER: I am so proud of our students and the awareness they have, and they know now is the time to take the environmental legacy into their hands.
PAUL D’ANDRADE: And the main thing is about our kids, you know. We want them to have the opportunity to have zero emission buses, to have a nice quiet ride, and less effects on their health.
Our total amount of buses is just over 1600. We have eight electric buses, and we have ten we should get sometime next school year, and we put in the application for another grant for an additional ten.
JOHN DAVIS: Electrifying our nation’s school bus fleet won’t happen overnight. That 2-and-a-half billion dollars is expected to add about 10,000 electric buses to the national total over the next five years; but it’s an investment that will continue to pay huge dividends in awareness and one that will drive us towards a cleaner future for generations to come.
Celebrating 75 Years of Porsche
Porsche builds incredibly fun-to-drive automobiles! And for 43 seasons, we’ve spent as much of our time driving them as possible. Well, this year Porsche is celebrating its own 75 years of motoring excellence, and when we were invited to a round-up of many of their most amazing efforts…how could we possibly say no?
ALEX KELLUM: I used to think introducing a brand-new Porsche model was hard. After all, what can I say that hasn’t already been said? But then I realized, for the very same reason, it’s easy to introduce them. One mention of the name ‘Porsche’ and their legacy sorta speaks for itself.
And that legacy is what led me across the “Big Drink” to Stuttgart, Germany, to help celebrate an important birthday and milestone for Porsche.
75 years, as a matter of fact. So, I got the invite, you’re the plus-one. Let’s go back in time to drive some of Porsche’s greatest hits.
And what better way to start the day than with two 911’s? I left the grounds of Porsche’s secret storage facility in this not-so-stealthy rear-engine prototype: a 1992 911 Carrera 2 Coupe Clubsport.
It was made to slot in between the Carrera 2 and Carrera RS. That means motorsports-oriented, yet completely street legal. So, while it added front bucket seats and ditched the rears, it still kept some creature comforts like air conditioning. Even for a hand-built prototype, the Carrera 2 Clubsport was solid.
“This thing is just a treat to drive. If this is how I’m starting the day, I can’t wait to see what’s next.”
Unfortunately, it never saw production.
So, I followed it up with one that did, albeit just 189 units: The Carrera 3.2 Coupe Clubsport.
This one does forgo amenities like AC, and power windows, and even the passenger sun visor for maximum weight-savings. Lighter engine components too, for a 6,840 RPM redline that, along with lower suspension and a limited-slip diff, crafted a truly tethered driving experience.
“The sounds of shifting the gears…all the bumps in the road. You can feel every little bit. But it’s not…it’s not unbearable. I mean, that’s what you want in a car like this anyway. You want to feel, and hear, and smell and, well, probably not taste; but, you wanna feel all the feels.”
As fun and historically significant as these Carreras were, the 911 is just the most obvious layer of Porsche’s history. Digging deeper meant a late morning cruise in this 356 Super 90.
This thing was old-school cool, sporting an air-cooled 4-cylinder boxer making a carbureted 90 horsepower, give or take.
My hour behind the wheel gave credence to the 911’s origins. The Super 90 gracefully blended driver’s engagement with a surprising sense of comfort, putting me at ease while strolling between pockets of civilization.
And then it was time to kick things up a notch: this 1988 Porsche 959. The 959 became Porsche’s technological benchmark when it first launched, thanks in part to its 444 horsepower biturbo boxer-six powering an electronically-controlled all-wheel drive system. Combined with the iconic aerodynamic styling and the 80’s sci-fi-esque cabin, I was starstruck.
“You know, we come all the way out here and we talk about legacy, right? You know, we’re talking about the history of this brand and the evolution of it and what it means to have the Porsche crest proudly stamped on the hood or anywhere else on the car. And, while there are a lot of great examples of that here, the 959 is certainly up there.”
After the 959, there was one more I just had to check out: this 944 Turbo Cabriolet. The front-engine 944 has always had a special place in my heart, if not for most Porsche-files. A boxy exterior that screams 80’s performance accented by the coolest thing ever made…pop-up headlights. Jokes aside, to me, the 944 is the still-attainable classic Porsche, so experiencing one for myself was a dream come true. As was the case with just about everything else I drove that day. Icons, bucket-listers, mold-breakers. Each one, undeniably, a true Porsche.
And after a day spent with all of them, all I can really say is, if this is what Porsche has accomplished after 75 years, I can’t wait to see what they do at 100.