An Introduction to EV School Buses

July 19, 2022
ev school buses

School districts across the country are starting to transition to electric school buses for multiple reasons that include rising fuel, maintenance costs, along with student and driver health. Since EV buses are relatively new, school officials have plenty of questions, starting with how do they get started when they are ready to make the switch?

In this article, we’ll take a look at the Clean Cities Coalition Network and how it can help your school district. We’ll also cover the current electric vehicle and EV charger markets, including their advantages, disadvantages, and common challenges.

What are Clean Cities Coalitions?

Clean Cities coalitions use several strategies to advance energy-saving technologies, while also providing affordable transportation. The coalitions evaluate the transportation needs of an area, focusing on best practices and technologies that can improve the practice.

Using state-of-the-art technologies, the coalitions support the transition away from fossil fuel to more carbon-neutral energy sources. They also demonstrate how the improved mobility choices, like EV school buses, can show a return on the district’s investment.

An estimated 80% of the population resides in a Clean Cities coalition boundary, and schools looking to switch their fleet to EV buses have a wide support network to take advantage of. Even though coalitions are based locally, they have access to a range of federal and regional resources.

Clean Cities Coalitions Provide Technical Support

Along with helping school districts create a strategy to reduce carbon emissions, the coalition also provides technical support. The diverse partnership within the coalitions allows them to transform the transportation market away from fossil fuels.

Working with the Department of Energy (DOE), the coalition works to ensure the transition to electric school buses goes smoothly. If the school district runs into any challenges or issues, the coalition’s Technical Response Service (TRS) will respond with data and other information necessary to keep your transportation project on track.

Working with the AFDC

The Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) works to help school districts make smart decisions about their transportation services. The center provides necessary data that helps administrators find affordable solutions so they can meet their financial and energy goals.

Along with supplying maps and charts, the online center also offers calculators and expansive data searches. Using the information contained in the files, schools can decide if electric buses are the best solution for their districts.

The Basics of EV School Buses and Their Challenges

Even with robust assistance and support for the network of Clean Cities coalitions, there are a few challenges to be aware of. Here’s a closer look at EV buses and their potential downsides.

What is an EV Bus?

An electric school bus looks and functions similar to gas-powered vehicles. The primary difference is the fuel source. An EV bus is powered by an internal battery that requires regular charging. Think of charging the battery the same as fueling up a vehicle.

To learn more about EV school buses like charging time and infrastructure, check the rest of the articles in our series on electric school buses.

EV School Buses are Growing in Popularity

There are an estimated 3,000 electric school buses servicing students across the country, and the number is expected to continue to increase.

To support the expected growth, several vehicle manufacturers are increasing the number of EV buses coming off of the assembly line. The range of these electric vehicles varies by make and model, so logistics are something districts want to consider during their planning stages.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Electric School Buses

With electric school buses starting to gain in popularity, it’s a good time to look at their benefits and potential drawbacks.

Benefits of EV Buses

  • Zero tailpipe emissions
  • Quieter ride
  • Flexible charging options
  • Lower maintenance costs

Overall, students and drivers experience a more enjoyable ride on an EV bus. The reduced emissions also benefit everyone’s health, including individuals in the community.

Potential Downsides of EV Buses

  • Electric batteries are expensive
  • Current technicians may require additional training to maintain an electric school bus
  • Battery efficiency can vary depending on use and maintenance

EV school buses can also lose efficiency with heavier loads. It means the range may be limited to account for the added weight. The route may need to be shortened to ensure the battery lasts until the bus returns to the school.

Challenges Associated with Infrastructure and Costs

EV school buses require infrastructure, and it comes at a cost. Some of the expense is offset by rebates, tax credits, and other financial incentives. However, districts will still end up covering some of the costs.

Most of the costs associated with EV infrastructure are from the charging stations. DC fast chargers will keep the fleet on the road, but they are more expensive than slower AC chargers.

Since school buses have a lot of downtimes, most districts can use cost-effective AC chargers. Plug the buses in at night, and they are ready for the morning route. During the day, the chargers will get the vehicles ready for the afternoon drop-off.

Electricity rates are another potential challenge. It is more expensive to charge electric school buses during peak hours. When the peak hours fall depends on the electric provider, so it’s a good idea to plan a charging routine around these times.

Something easy to overlook and can also create challenges is the infrastructure design. The chargers will need to be connected to the electric grid, and it often means ripping up the pavement. Installation costs can be hefty, even with financial incentives. A good tip is to plan for the future. The school may only need five EV chargers now, but if fleet expansion is planned the district will require a more robust infrastructure. Planning for the additional chargers during the initial installation project will help save schools time and money in the future.

Ready to Learn More About Electric School Buses and EV Charging?

Along with taking advantage of the AFDC website, we can also answer your questions. Contact us today to learn if electric school buses and EV charging are the right move for your district.

To speak with an Apogee Charging Solutions, EV charging specialist about electrifying your fleet and how we can assist, call 484-816-2076, email info@apogeecharging.com, or schedule a call that fits your needs by clicking the button below.

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