Photo courtesy of GreenPower Motor Company.

6 Massachusetts School Districts To Acquire Electric School Buses

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The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) recently awarded Accelerating Clean Transportation (ACT) grants to six Massachusetts school districts to electrify their school bus fleets. The grants are up to $2 million per fleet. They include funds for new buses and technical assistance to operationalize them, such as installing chargers and designing charging sites.

A great amount of news about electric vehicles covers personal transportation and yet mass transit, which is usually but not always more energy efficient, is being somewhat overlooked. News stories about electrifying mass transit are important because electric mass transit generates less direct harmful air pollution and it can be run on electricity from clean, renewable power sources.

Justin Roy, an associate at Arup, answered some questions about the new buses for CleanTechnica. Arup is a global sustainable development consultancy and one of the electric bus project partners involved with the technical assistance.

Why is it important to replace diesel school buses with electric ones?

Any plan to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and meet our targets must involve the transportation sector, which is a significant contributor with the vehicles we drive producing more than 25% of the nation’s emissions. Electric school buses also have additional health benefits of reducing local air pollution, improving quality of life for children as they commute to and from school and after-school activities.

The grants include coverage for technical assistance, what is this assistance when it comes to electric bus fleets and schools?

The technical assistance focuses on charging infrastructure support to enable electric school buses to charge at the school districts’ desired locations. The MassCEC team is supporting the school districts with integrating charging equipment for their initial electric school buses and planning support for future electrification of 100% of their fleets. Electric school buses have the ability to charge quickly, but most buildings do not have the existing electrical infrastructure to support the charging levels required. We have worked closely with the schools to determine how best to meet the current and future charging needs of their fleets in a cost-effective and practical manner. In addition, we are reviewing how the charging schedule should be optimized to meet the unique operational needs of each school district, while providing flexibility for the unknown — all while managing electricity costs.

How many electric buses will be purchased and made operational in the six districts?

In total, the six school districts are targeting 95 buses to be purchased under the current program.

How many students are in the districts?

New Bedford – 12,522

Fall River – 10,447

Lawrence – 12,867

Upper Cape Tech – 769

Quincy – 9,649

LPVEC – 20,231

Total student body population across the 6 districts – 66,485.

Is the goal of full electrification by 2025 for all of the six districts?

The goal by 2025 is to get the districts operating their initial electric school bus purchases into their daily operations and to develop complete plans for full fleet electrification. 

This is an important step because it allows the school districts to learn the nuances of electrical school bus operations, charging, and maintenance and will provide valuable information for future phases as they expand their fleets.

Do the district fleet grants cover the cost of EV chargers and their installation?

The federal grants through the EPA cover the capital cost of the charging infrastructure and electric school bus procurement. MassCEC has also provided additional funding to go towards technical services, full fleet conversion planning, and other capital costs where needed. The goal of this project is to ensure a soft landing for the initial orders of electric school buses, and to set up each district with an actionable long-term electrification plan.

Will the districts save on fuel costs over the long-term by using electricity instead of paying for gas or diesel fuel?

Electric vehicles can have lower operating costs than traditional fossil fuel vehicles, particularly when they can be charged with off peak electricity that is available at lower rates. We have found that electric school buses can cost less than 55% than their traditional counterparts when charged during off peak hours. The integration of on-site energy sources such as solar PV can reduce these costs even further. The technical support provided under the MassCEC program will help school districts select electric school buses, develop charging plans and infrastructure which meet their operational needs while minimizing operational costs, and support the school districts during construction and commissioning phases to help ensure successful deployment.

Will the same districts also install solar power to generate electricity to charge the buses?

The focus of this program is to assist with the initial transition from traditional to electric school buses. We are also performing long term planning analysis which look at full fleet evaluation, and determine the potential benefits of solar PV, battery energy storage, and microgrids. A microgrid can help to provide cost-effective, low-carbon, and resilientcharging to help ensure buses are always charged up and ready to go in the morning, helping to ensure students arrive at school on time.

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Jake Richardson

Hello, I have been writing online for some time, and enjoy the outdoors. If you like, you can follow me on Twitter:

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