How 2 school districts are ‘electrifying their rides’

Districts should seek incentive and grants to offset initial costs of electric buses
By: | October 15, 2020
Electric buses charge at Twin Rivers USD in Sacramento, California. (Photo: Adrienne Orilla/Green For All)Electric buses charge at Twin Rivers USD in Sacramento, California. (Photo: Adrienne Orilla/Green For All)

Electric buses not only keep pollutants out of the air and save fuel costs, but they can also generate some revenue for a school district.

While they may be more expensive to buy than are diesel vehicles, the energy generated by electric bus batteries can be returned to the power grid.

That’s exactly what the three electric buses do in Concord Public Schools in Massachusetts. The vehicles recharge after afternoon runs and then plug into the local power grid to provide power during peak evening use from about 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The district also built a small solar array that allows its to store energy that can be returned to the grid.

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“The duty cycle of a school bus is a great match to the grid’s demand for electricity,” says Brian Foulds, the chair of Concord’s Climate Action Advisory Board who spearheaded the district’s acquisition of electric buses.

In 2015, the district’s 36 diesel buses burned about 100,000 gallons of diesel every year, accounting for 8% of the town’s total emissions.

The purchase price of an electric bus is about 3.5 times that of a diesel vehicle, but cost less to fuel and maintain.

Still, an electric bus can cost more over a 12-year life cycle if a district does not seek rebates from utilities and grants to offset the expense, Foulds said a Solar Tour webinar sponsored by Generation180, a renewable energy nonprofit.

Electric buses drive instruction, too

Conservation efforts in Stockton USD in California should save about $22 million over 10 years.

The district, which uses solar power at two schools, will take the next step in its efforts to reduce emissions when it gets the first of its 11 electric buses in early 2021, Gilbert Rosas, Stockton USD’s energy education specialist, said during the webinar.

The district has received grants for both the buses and the charging stations.

The fact the more than 80% of districts are considered high poverty is proof that electric buses are not just a possibility in high-income districts, Rosas says.

The electric buses will also play a role in instruction at Stockton USD.

High school students will be trained on electric vehicle maintenance alongside the district’s fleet mechanics, Rosas says.

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