A Virginia school district has added two new electric school buses to its fleet thanks to a program designed to help school divisions in the state as they transition their fleets from diesel to electric.
Chesterfield County Public Schools received two Jouley electric school buses from Thomas Built Buses as part of phase one of Virginia power company Dominion Energy’s Electric School Bus Initiative, Craig Willingham, Chesterfield’s fleet services division manager, told School Bus Fleet.
As SBF previously reported, in December 2019, Dominion Energy selected Thomas Built Buses to supply 50 of its Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley buses to Virginia school districts for the initial phase of its electric school bus program. The first of these buses were delivered in October 2020.
The electric buses delivered to Chesterfield by Thomas Built Buses dealer Sonny Merryman are the first for the district, which currently operates a fleet of over 630 buses, Willingham told SBF. He said a formal unveiling ceremony for the buses is expected to take place in August.
“This is a significant milestone for Chesterfield County and an exciting time to expand our fleet of alternative-fueled vehicles,” Willingham said in a news release from Chesterfield County. “We’ve experienced great success in recent years with propane buses and are looking forward to understanding the value and cost benefit these electric buses will provide.”
Dr. Mervin B. Daugherty, superintendent of Chesterfield County Public Schools, added in the release that the district’s electric buses “will make a difference from their very first route as they daily demonstrate to our students how STEM, environmental protection, and everyday life can connect.”
According to Chesterfield County, the electric buses are intended to reduce operational and maintenance costs for schools by 60% compared to diesel models. Each bus can reportedly seat up to 77 students and travel an average of 135 miles on a three-hour charge.
Aside from reducing maintenance costs and emissions, the county said that the buses’ batteries will be able to store and inject electric energy into the local power grid during periods of high demand when the buses are not in use.
“We are committed to helping our customers lower their carbon footprint and harness new, innovative technologies,” said Dan Weekley, vice president of innovation policy and implementation for Dominion Energy, in the county's news release. “Electric school buses are an innovative, sustainable solution that will help the environment, protect children’s health, make the electric grid stronger, and provide a cost-efficient option for the school system, and we can’t wait to see them transporting students in Chesterfield County.”
The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors approved a request in November 2020 from the county’s fleet services division to have electric charging stations installed at its bus maintenance facility.
Chesterfield County Public Schools is the fifth-largest school system in Virginia, educating more than 62,000 students, according to the county. The district’s school buses reportedly travel more than 9 million miles annually, transporting students to and from school, field trips, and athletic events.