A Conversation Between Dusty Diesel and Ellie Electric

ESB cartoon

We have 1,738 electric school buses (ESB’s) are currently funded, ordered, delivered or operating in the U.S. (CALSTART). But 95% of the nation’s nearly half million school buses are diesel. Lots of tension when new technology meets incumbent technology.

Just for fun, let’s imagine how these buses might talk to each other in the bus yard.

Ellie Electric: Hi there, my name is Ellie! Looks like we’ll be living in the same bus yard.

Dusty Diesel: I’ve heard about your kind. Cost four times what I do, with your fussy charging in-fra-struc-ture, la-dee-dah. Think you’re better than me and my buddies?

Ellie Electric: Um, well, I do run clean —

Dusty Diesel: We bleed yellow around here, baby. 25 million kids in 13,500 school districts in the U.S. depending on us. We’re the safest transportation in the nation by passenger mile, by far. You’re an upstart. Don’t come crying to me if your batteries run down and you need to get towed.

Ellie Electric: Debbie Diesel told me you had to get towed last week. Something about an oil leak and your check engine light wouldn’t clear? I don’t even have any oil that could leak. Look, see, I’ve got no tailpipe and no emissions.

Dusty Diesel: I didn’t ask to see your hind end! And lemme tell you about clean: I’ve got a Diesel Particulate Filter – DPF –  that cleans up my emissions. No particulate matter or nitrous oxide for my kiddos.

Ellie Electric: Dusty, be real, DPF’s cost from $5,500 up to $11,000. And, they have to get removed and cleaned a lot, also replaced. Air standards keep getting stricter.

Dusty Diesel: Well! Let’s note that your underbelly is full of batteries, so you can’t be an activity bus like me. You’ve got no storage compartments, so our sports teams and marching band have got no use for you.

Ellie Electric: That’s true. I’m just a humble route bus, like most school buses. But I don’t contribute to climate change, and you fossil-fueled buses do. You guys are, like, really old.

Dusty Diesel: Don’t be ageist! What’s the plan for your batteries at YOUR end of life? Huh?

Ellie Electric: At my end of life, may I rest in peace, my batteries can get used as backup power for buildings. How cool is that?! But you, Dusty Diesel, can extend your life by getting . . .  repowered! Your drivetrain can get changed out with electric.

Dusty Diesel: But would I still be me?

Ellie ESB: Lots of you would stay: your body, your seats, but you’d become an electric school bus, like me.

Dusty Diesel: No, the horror! I’d rather die.

Ellie ESB: But repowers only cost half what I cost, or way less if you’re doing 10,000 of them over five years like Midwest Transit Equipment is paying SEA Electric to do. UES has already got repowers running in New York, and EV Bison is moving into the space, too. Dusty, look at being repowered as being reborn, a new life, a phoenix rising, a resurre –

Dusty Diesel: That’s enough! If we’re gonna be bus yard buddies (and I guess I’ve got no choice here) you could at least respect your elders. Uppity new buses crowding my precious yard space with chargers? You are so disruptive.

Ellie ESB: Chargers! They fuel me! They’re known as EVSE. They come in L2 which uses AC and is inexpensive but slow (overnight to charge me). Or, a fleet could get DCFC, which is fast but pricey, and can serve V2G, which can eventually create revenue that helps to pay for me.

Dusty Diesel: Are you rapping now? Stop with the acronyms!

Ellie ESB: I know, too many letters flying around in clouds. Maybe a glossary can help.

Learn more about our Electric Bus Learning Project here