Bloomingdale High School driver education teacher Mike Lankford charges up the school’s new Nissan LEAF all-electric car, while Tampa Electric Company Business Development Manager and Bloomingdale alumnus Ken Hernandez looks on.

By Brad Stager

With the addition of a plug-in, all-electric Nissan LEAF compact car to its fleet of six Dodge Durango SUVs, Bloomingdale High School became the first school in Florida to make electric vehicle technology part of its Driver Education program.

Along with a new set of wheels, Bloomingdale is also the first high school in Florida to offer Tampa Electric Company’s Electric Vehicle and Energy Education program, a collaboration with the Tampa Bay Clean Cities Coalition and the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research. A curriculum and student handbook will help driver education teachers like Bloomingdale’s Mike Lankford navigate the new technology with students.

“I think it’s going to be a really good driver education course,” he said. “It’s the future of where cars are going and we’re going to do everything we can to teach them about electric cars.”

Lankford also said the LEAF will save the school money in terms of fuel and maintenance.

For Bloomingdale Principal Sue Burkett, acquiring the latest in transportation technology for her students to maneuver on the school’s driving range and local roads is as important as what goes on inside of classrooms.

“It’s innovative and will help us keep up with what is going on in society,” she said.

The growing number of electric cars in use indicates supporting that technology is part of Tampa Electric’s future, according to Business Development Manager and Bloomingdale alumnus Kenneth Hernandez. “It’s our product going into the vehicle and we are looking at the right way to educate our customers about electric transportation.”

According to Tampa Electric, it is the first electric utility in Florida to offer the Electric Vehicle and Energy Education program, and that the program is among the first of its kind in the country.

“This will give students hands-on experience that will help them make informed decisions when they’re ready to purchase their own vehicle,” said Tampa Electric President and Chief Executive Officer Nancy Tower in a news release.

Two other high schools in Hillsborough County, King and Sickles, will also be acquiring electric cars and charging stations as part of the program.