U.S. states beginning to invest in plug-in hybrid school buses

Once upon a time, someone had an idea: let’s transport U.S. schoolkids in big yellow buses that spew diesel fumes and have no seatbelts. The nation embraced the idea — though oddly, the plan to dangle a knife above each seat was scrapped — but now it’s having second thoughts. Enter the plug-in hybrid school bus, soon to be used in 11 states. Still no seatbelts, as far as we know, but the cleaner ride can get nearly twice the mileage of its predecessor (12-plus miles per gallon vs. seven-ish) while potentially halving fuel use. “When we first talked about this [in 2002], manufacturers acted as if we were asking them to build flying cars,” says Ewan Pritchard, the engineer behind the design. But Navistar, the nation’s biggest yellow-bus-maker, has made plug-ins a reality. “There is a huge shift going on — a seismic shift in mindset and in technology,” says a company marketing rep. The buses cost over $200,000 — more than twice as much as the old models — but demand should drive prices down.