by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Michigan’s fourth-largest school district is having “significant” performance issues with its expensive electric buses, issues that come after the Biden administration spent $1 billion to “transform America’s school bus fleet” with electric models.
During an April 19 presentation to the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education, the district’s environmental sustainability director, Emile Lauzzana, highlighted a number of issues with the district’s electric bus fleet. Those buses, Lauzzana said, have “a lot of downtime and performance issues” and aren’t “fully on the road,” despite the fact that they are “approximately five times more expensive than regular buses.” The infrastructure upgrades required to use the buses, meanwhile, were “originally estimated to be only about $50,000” but “ended up being more like $200,000,” according to Lauzzana. “I have a number of colleagues in different states who are facing similar challenges,” the district official lamented. “For the school bus market, it’s been challenging for us.”
Just months before Lauzzana’s admission, President Joe Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency announced it awarded nearly $1 billion in taxpayer funds to “transform America’s school bus fleet” with “over 2,400 clean school buses that will accelerate the transition to zero emission vehicles.” But problems with electric buses occurred long before the agency’s announcement.
Electric bus company Proterra, which the Biden administration has lauded as “pretty amazing,” saw Philadelphia remove 25 of its buses from the roads in 2020 due to structural problems. Those buses cost the city $24 million. Another Southern California city waited months in 2021 to repair nearly a dozen buses from its electric fleet, more than a third of which were out of service at the time. Ann Arbor Public Schools’ electric buses also use Proterra batteries and drivetrain technology.