The first-ever electric school bus, introduced in November, started picking up students in Central California’s Kings Canyon Unified school district this week. And three more should be operating soon, according to a press release from developers Trans Tech and Motiv Power Systems.
The California Air Resources Board was a major factor in getting the first two electric buses on the road, contributing $400,000 to the pilot program in the form of cost-offsetting vouchers. Similar programs in Chicago and New York could contribute to the availability of electric buses there as well. A federal highway program supplied the funding for the third and fourth buses currently on their way.
While the electric buses cost around twice as much as similar gas buses, Jim Castelaz, founder and CEO of Motiv Power Systems, said that was balanced by fuel and maintenance costs. It costs “1/8 as much to fuel and 1/3 as much to maintain,” he said. “In the life of a school bus, 2–3 times the cost of the vehicle is spent on fuel and maintenance.”
Buses are available with 80 or 100 miles of range, and hold 25 students, or 18 students and a wheelchair lift.
Castelaz looked to the air quality benefits of electric buses, saying in a statement, “I hope that by the time my daughter is old enough to go to school clean, zero-emission school buses like this one will be the industry standard.”