Largest Electric School Bus Order In US History — Montgomery County Orders 326 Buses (Just To Start)

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Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) in Maryland has decided to fully electrify its fleet. It has chosen Highland Electric Transportation to get to work transitioning its school bus fleet from fossil fuels to electricity, and that starts with an order for 326 electric school buses — to be delivered in the next 4 years.

“I figured that at some point electric bus prices would fall enough to make it affordable, but this deal makes it affordable now,” said Todd Watkins, Transportation Director for MCPS.

At the moment, MCPS has a fleet of more than 1,400 school buses. It is in charge of more than 200 schools serving more than 160,000 students across the county.

For this initial order at least, the school buses will be powered by Proterra, the Californian electric bus maker and now electric bus battery maker that has been a trailblazer in this market for about a decade. As noted in the title, this initial procurement is said to be the largest single order of electric school buses to date. Some specs on the bus include:

  • 226 kWh battery
  • 135 miles of range on a single charge

Fully converting the bus fleet is expected to cut carbon emissions by 25,000 tons per year.

Adding to the fun, “the electric buses will lend their batteries to deliver stored electricity to the local electricity markets, interconnected through Pepco, which helps the community integrate renewable energy and support grid resiliency.”

Other partners will be Thomas Built Buses and American Bus. Thomas Built Buses will manufacture the buses (all the Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley model), in North Carolina, while American Bus, which is based in Maryland, will provide supplies for and service the buses.

“We are honored to partner with Montgomery County on this innovative program. We believe this project is a great example of the power of public-private partnerships as we seek to electrify school bus fleets across the country,” said Duncan McIntyre, CEO of Highland, which is a turnkey electric fleet solutions company for schools and other government entities. The company bundles the costs and benefits/revenue from electric vehicles, charging equipment, financing, and services, making electrification simple and easy.

We have written about electric school buses several times in recent months, but will be getting into the topic much more in coming months. It is indeed the time for electric school buses.

“Battery-electric technology is the future of student transportation, and this is just the beginning of a transition to zero-emissions school buses across the country,” said Caley Edgerly, president and CEO, Thomas Built Buses. “We applaud the Montgomery County Public School system for leading the way, and thank Highland Electric Transportation and Proterra for their partnership and collaboration.”

“Battery-electric school buses offer a safe, reliable mode of transportation that reduces noise and air pollution, protecting public health and the environment. That’s why innovative communities like Montgomery County, Maryland are driving the transition to clean, zero-emission pupil transportation for our students and schools. Together with Thomas Built Buses and Highland Electric Transportation, Proterra is proud to deliver the benefits of our electric vehicle technology to Montgomery County and support their historic commitment to electric school buses,” said Gareth Joyce, President of Proterra Powered and Energy.

As a stimulus to clean up the air and improve public health, grants are available across the country for electric school buses. This project got a boost of $817,000 from a Maryland Energy Association (MEA) grant.

We need to clean up the air with electric transport everywhere, but I think nowhere is it more important and urgent than our kids school bus fleets. Air pollution can cause severe and long-term harm to kids’ health and development, and conventional fossil fueled school buses are a gigantic source of pollution — even tremendously more than is considered safe. A recent study found that “carbon dioxide fumes inside buses were 10 times higher than the limits recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 10 times higher!”

Take this story as inspiration for your local school(s) and push your school boards to follow Montgomery County’s lead. If this Maryland county can transition 1,400 school buses to electricity (326 in the next 4 years), other counties can do it too.

For some related recent stories on electric school buses, see:

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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