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Electric buses could help schools get greener

Posted at 12:53 PM, Mar 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-16 12:58:33-04

The sun still hasn’t come up in Sacramento, California, as Paul Harrison makes his safety checks for the school bus he drives.

The Twin Rivers school district bus yard is busy just before 6 a.m. All the drivers are getting ready to pick up the kids.

But Harrison is driving a slightly different model than some of his co-workers.

“I believe it’s been about three years we’ve been driving these electric buses," he said. "There’s no gas, there’s no emissions."

His is one of 30 electric school buses owned by the district, about half their fleet. His boss, Tim Shannon, hopes one day the district's entire fleet will be electric.

“As the range gets better on electric school buses have a 100 percent electric fleet within the next three and a half to four years," said Shannon.

While the overall goal is to help reduce the districts carbon footprint, Harrison says he notices differences while he drives.

“When you’re driving this bus, there’s no diesel, there’s no fuel to work with, there’s no natural pumps that you have to hook up,” said Harrison.

And so do the students he drives to school every day.

“The electric buses, they don’t have that smell and you can actually kind of breathe,” said Carrissa Stevens, an 8th-grader at Symthe Middle School.

She likes the fact that buses don’t smell like diesel and she likes that she’s doing her part to help the environment.

“If we didn’t take care of the environment, I don’t think any of us would be here. But I also care about the animals and the plants and all that because it’s important,” said Stevens.

And she may not know it, but she’s also helping her parents and other tax payers save some money.

“I would tell you the current savings with the buses we have is close to $100,000 a year,” said Shannon.

And he only expects the savings to increase over time and as they get more buses. While there is a heavy start up cost associated with buying electric buses and installing chargers, they’re much cheaper to maintain than their diesel counterparts.

“You’re getting almost triple the tire life out of a tire. You’re getting over double the break life out of the breaks because of regenerative breaking," explained Shannon. "The average mile it costs us to drive an electric bus is between $0.15 and $0.19. With the diesel buses between $0.82 and $0.86."

And while savings are great the most important thing is getting the kids to and from school safe.

“There’s nothing that motivates me to come to work regardless of how I’m feeling. You know that these 40, 50 kids are here waiting and depending on you because you’re there everyday at the same time," said Harrison. "They know you by name. They look forward to seeing you; you look forward to seeing them. And that says a lot."