Salt Lake City (Utah) School District has added four Micro Bird electric school buses to its fleet with the help of funding from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. - Photo courtesy Salt Lake City School District

Salt Lake City (Utah) School District has added four Micro Bird electric school buses to its fleet with the help of funding from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

Photo courtesy Salt Lake City School District

Salt Lake City School District (SLCSD) recently rolled out four Micro Bird electric school buses to replace some of its aging diesel buses.

The electric school buses, which are reportedly the first for the district and the state, were partially funded through the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ’s) Volkswagen settlement program and Utah Clean Diesel Program (UCDP), according to a news release from the agency.

The DEQ awarded SLCSD two grants, totaling $1.5 million, to purchase the electric buses, Yandary Chatwin, the district’s executive director of communications and community relations, told School Bus Fleet.

“With the money from the first grant, [which the district applied for in November 2018], we were able to purchase four electric buses,” Chatwin said. “Four more buses will be on their way to our district next year with the funds from the second grant.”

Ken Martinez, interim transportation supervisor for SLCSD, said in the DEQ’s news release that the district “has been looking into all alternative-fuel school buses for several years, but when we were made aware of the grants available through DEQ, it gave us a shot of motivation to move forward with the electric buses.”

Martinez added that he watched costs for full-size electric buses drop from $550,000 in 2017 to $400,000 six months ago, with current costs being close to $380,000. He attributed the fall in prices to the cost of batteries going down and more electric buses being sold nationwide, according to the DEQ. The district reportedly chose to test electric vehicle technology on its smaller buses — which are used to transport special-needs students on shorter routes — to test the range of the battery.

“When we first got bids for the smaller buses 14 months ago, the costs were $270,000, but the costs have dropped to $233,000, and this was during the COVID-19 pandemic, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the industry changes in the next year,” Martinez said in the news release.

SLCSD announced in a post on its Facebook page that the first four electric buses will be used to transport students on the west side of Salt Lake City. This specific area was chosen based on environmental studies that show that city’s west side has some of the highest levels of pollution in the state, according to the district.

Currently, SLCSD has a total of 100 buses in their fleet and intends to convert 20% to 25% of those buses to electric, with an eventual goal of converting 70% to 75% of its fleet to electric, according to the DEQ. The agency said that the district is also updating its bus depot to accommodate charging stations for the new electric buses. The charging stations will reportedly be housed under canopies equipped with solar panels that may eventually be used to provide part of the power to the buses.

View additional photos of SLCSD's electric school buses, posted on the district's Facebook page, below.

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