University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman says Michigan's higher education institutions will make a strong bid for federal grants to develop the infrastructure to support alternative energy vehicles.
Coleman says, "The president just announced a one billion dollar commitment back on Friday and, believe me, we at the University of Michigan and Michigan State and Wayne State and other also with some of our other universities will be front and center to try and get some of that money."
Coleman was on a panel in Lansing talking about the re-invention of the state's economy. The federal grants will go toward making 10 to 15 communities across the country models for how to create the infrastructure for cars and trucks powered by electricity, the sun, natural gas, or some other alternative energy source.
Coleman says the cooperative arrangement between Michigan's three big research universities makes the state a strong contender.
Closer to home, Traverse City Area Public Schools are looking into natural gas as a fuel for their fleet of busses. TCAPS is part of a Natural Gas Feasibility Study this spring. TCAPS has a fleet of 100 school buses and the district replaces roughly 10 each year.
It's estimated each new bus built to run on natural gas would cost about 10-thousand dollars more than a diesel model, but Paul Soma, the district's Chief Financial Officer says that money could be recouped fairly quickly.
Paul Soma say, "Where prices were about six or eight months ago, we were looking at savings in the range of a dollar per gallon of fuel. And with us using 250-thousand gallons per year, that about what we use of fuel, that's a 250-thousand dollars savings in a year."
The study is expected to be completed by this summer. The Bay Area Transportation Authority is also part of the study. BATA currently has about 60 buses and vans in its fleet.