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.
Tire Tracks: 1971 Alfa Romeo GTV 1750
In the 137-year history of the automobile, there have been many that both captured our attention, and progressed to legendary status. But then there are others that, while coveted when new, are less well known to collectors of today. Now, one such car recently caught the eye of our own Roger Mecca, who decided this particular Italian coupe deserved a return to the spotlight.
ROGER MECCA: For many devoted gearheads, there’s that one car classic car they yearn for, endlessly scouring websites, auction catalogues and local car shows looking to find that pristine example or restorable project– that Holy Grail to make their car dreams a reality.
For these fanatics, just mentioning that particular make and model can induce regret-filled stories of missed opportunities or a longwinded discussion on why it’s the ultimate in driving excellence.
Once such example is the Alfa Romeo GTV, produced between 1965 and 1974. It was a designed to be the great balance between a family car and something you could rip down any tight Italian road. And while it’s flown under the radar for many car fans, most Alfa enthusiasts will tell you this is what made the brand so iconic.
Richard Garre owns this 1971 Alfa Romeo GTV 1750, a car he’s loved for 50 years. In 1973, a college roommate who owned a GTV tossed Richard the keys and they went for a drive. Within moments, he had an epiphany.
RICHARD GARRE: I was in the car for about 10 minutes and I go, ‘I need to own this car!’
It had everything. It had the looks, it had the sound, it just– it, it had just such a great visceral experience. I go, ‘this is it- I gotta own this car!’”
The GTV, after driving it and owning it, it really did kind of change my life, especially towards being in the car business. I realized after working on cars for a while, that, uh, I think this is a good business I’m gonna be in. So, the start of my senior year, I was looking for employment either, you know, twisting wrenches or working for a car company or a dealership.
ROGER MECCA: Which he did from then on, including once having his own shop that specialized in, you guessed it, Alfa Romeos, and other high-end European brands.
There were four main variations of the GTV, based on the displacement of the 4-cylinder twin cam aluminum engine. The 1300, the 1600, the 1750, and the 2000. Now, while each has their own followers, most Alfa fans, including Richard, will tell you the 1750 is the sweet spot. It gives you the best balance of power and finesse.
Delivering 130 horsepower and 125 pounds of torque, the 1750 redlines at 7000 RPM. And when you get there, the little 1.8 liter starts to sing. Downshifting and throttling into a corner, it sounds and feels like you must be going 80, though you’re barely doing 30. In fact, it takes almost 10 seconds to reach 60. But trust me, when everything feels and sounds this good, you don’t care.
The five-speed doesn’t like to be rushed, but it’s velvety smooth. The feather-light steering provides intuitive feedback and the cornering grip and stability encourage you to go harder and faster.
The GTV is so much fun to drive, you almost forget just how great it looks- even 45 years later. It was the first model designed by the legendary Giorgetto Giugiaro, created when he was just 22 years old. Known for such icons as the Lotus Esprit and BMW M1, he never liked the GTV. Though it’s hard to understand why. Simultaneously masculine and elegant, one look and there is no mistake what the GTV was designed for: driving fast and having fun, but still being refined and exotic.
Now, if you’d like to own a GTV, you are in luck because they made more than 40,000 of these over the years. The challenge, however, is finding one that’s in really good shape.
These were notorious rust buckets, and a lot of people didn’t treat them very well, so finding one that’s in excellent condition- that can be a hassle. Finding one that’s in perfect condition? That can cost you $100,000.
But if you do find one to make your own, please do yourself and every GTV lover like Richard a favor: don’t keep it safely tucked away like a museum showpiece. Drive it as often as you can, just like Alfa Romeo intended. But I have a feeling that once you get behind the wheel, that won’t be a problem.