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White Plains Unveils State's First All-Electric School Buses

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- As students roll to school in the suburbs, there is music in motion.

Their buses play a melody, because they're unlike any other in New York state -- 100 percent electric.

The typical school bus has the din of a diesel engine, but on the streets of White Plains five buses roll with their own soundtrack.

"It alerts pedestrians and kids that the vehicle is approaching," bus driver Andre Stonuy told CBS2's Tony Aiello on Wednesday.

"If the sound generator was not there, then one would not know that the vehicle was on. It's amazing," transportation director Sergio Alfonso added.

Electric School Bus
(credit: CBS2)

They're quiet and they're environmentally clean. National Express, the bus operator for White Plains, has rolled out the state's first all-electric school buses.

It's a test run for clean new technology at no cost to the district.

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Under the hood, the buses have batteries instead of diesel engines. They have zero emissions as they make their rounds. They get 66 miles on a full charge. Drivers are alerted of the battery life by a display inside the vehicle, while on the outside three lights across the front of the bus show the current charge.

Con Edison contributed $500,000 towards the purchase of the buses, because in the summer, when they're parked, the utility can store energy in those batteries. When the grid is stressed, the bus batteries can feed power back in to provide some relief.

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Some environmentalists say clean diesel or propane buses are cheaper ways to reduce pollution, but White Plains schools superintendent Joseph Ricca said his district is proud to be testing all-electric.

"You're gonna have folks weighing in on all sides of what's gonna be the better technology," Ricca said. "I think the important thing is that we're trying new things."

And trying to make a difference for the environment, which is music to Mother Nature's ears.

Right now, electric buses cost three times more than conventional diesel buses, but supporters say the price will come down rapidly as demand increases.

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