The Electric School Bus






July 13, 2020                                                                                                                                                        Home

In rural America the school bus has been a key part of community life for generations, bringing kids from home to school in the morning and back from school back home in the afternoon.  The yellow school bus is still doing its work, and hopefully will be providing this service again this school year.

The yellow school bus has been part of daily lives for so many families for many years.. Today, the bus itself has begun to undergo changes. Many school systems in the United States are investing in electric buses, buses that do not use diesel.  Rural electric cooperatives in half a dozen states are promoting the use of these electric buses. 

People are becoming more and more familiar with electric cars.  Technology is moving quickly to produce vehicles with a longer driving range.  Businesses across the country are providing vehicle chargers people can use while shopping, meeting, or eating.

The same changes are taking place with school buses.  If you think about it, the school bus is ideal for the daily trips it makes with students.  The bus can be re-charged overnight.  More than a dozen communities in a half dozen states now have electric school buses.  School systems in other states are now talking with legislators about using some of the Volkswagen air pollution settlement funds to purchase electric school buses.

There are health benefits: no inhaling diesel fumes for the kids;  quiet operation, which means the driver can hear better and be more aware of what is going on in the bus; and cleaner air, with no emissions.    

A school bus in use the past two years in Maple Grove, MN has saved $12,000 a year in maintenance and fuel costs, according to David Renallo of Great River Energy in Minnesota. There is, of course, no need for oil changes and no need to replace internal combustion engine parts.

Certainly, the electric school bus is more costly up front than the diesel bus, though the cost will most likely decrease as technology moves forward and production increases.  The electric school bus has a limited range and would not work for a long field trip.

Yet despite some of the challenges, the Blue Bird Company is expected to build about 300 electric buses this year (about 200 of which will go to school systems in California). Though this is a small piece of the total 11,000 buses to be manufactured in 2020, it’s a threefold increase over last year, according to Blue Bird.

If you know of programs at other electric cooperatives that benefit member-owners, please let us know by email:

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