Two school districts — one in Tennessee and another in Washington — recently purchased their first electric school buses after receiving a portion of their state’s Volkswagen (VW) settlement funds.
In Jonesborough, Tennessee, Washington County Schools unveiled its first LionC electric school bus during a ceremony at the district’s bus garage on June 3, according to a news release from the district. The bus, along with a charging station, was purchased using a $219,250 grant through the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s (TDEC’s) School Bus Replacement Grant Program. The program is backed by nearly $8.2 million of the state’s VW funding, according to TDEC’s website.
Electric utility company BrightRidge and power company Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) are expected to provide additional support for the project by installing and powering the charging station, according to the district. The charging station will reportedly be installed at Washington County Schools’ bus garage in Jonesborough.
“The partnership we've created with TDEC, TVA, and BrightRidge to place an all-electric school bus in our fleet is a major advance in the effort to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Jerry Boyd, Washington County’s director of schools, in the news release. “We plan to put this bus on a regular route, five days per week, just like our diesel-powered buses.”
Meanwhile, in Washington, Snoqualmie Valley School District is also gearing up for the rollout of its first electric school bus.
As School Bus Fleet previously reported, in April 2020, the Washington Department of Ecology earmarked $12 million of the state’s total $112.7 million share of VW funds to purchase 40 electric school buses for 22 school districts.
Snoqualmie Valley was awarded a $300,000 VW grant for one Blue Bird electric school bus, in addition to funding from Puget Sound Energy for charging infrastructure, Belle Tromp, the district’s director of transportation, told SBF. She added that the charging infrastructure usually costs about $25,000 to $50,000.
As a condition of being awarded the grant, Tromp said that Snoqualmie Valley School District was required to decommission one of its older diesel buses.
“Our transportation department donated the old, decommissioned bus to the local Snoqualmie Fire Department for use in training emergency personnel,” she explained to SBF. “[It was] a win-win for our district’s students and staff, as emergency personnel will be able to practice how to respond to potential bus emergencies.”
“This bus has zero emissions and requires no gas or fuel,” she noted. “Other highlights include a surprisingly strong engine that will require less maintenance, and it’s nearly silent when running.”
Tromp estimates that the electric bus will be able to travel approximately 80 to 92 miles on the district’s hilly bus routes, and a maximum of 120 miles in flatter areas.
As for operating the bus in severe weather conditions, Tromp said the alternatively-fueled vehicle is equipped with automatic chains and sanders, just like the rest of the district’s fleet. She also said that the bus features an inclement-weather strobe light that is designed to provide higher visibility of the bus in fog, hard rain, or snowstorms.
Since receiving the electric bus from Washington-based Blue Bird dealer Bryson Bus Sales and Service on May 19, Tromp said the district is looking forward to sharing the vehicle with the community. One upcoming opportunity to do so, she added, will be during a bus driver recruiting event on June 9, while other opportnities include showcasing the bus during parades this summer, if/when such celebrations resume.
In the meantime, Tromp told SBF that Snoqualmie Valley School District is working on developing and implementing training for all its transportation staff so they can get acquainted with the new electric bus.