A Chinle USD bus driver provides an orientation to the functionality and benefits of the...

A Chinle USD bus driver provides an orientation to the functionality and benefits of the electric bus for students and community members at the debut appearance of the first EV school bus on the Navajo reservation.

Photo: Chinle Unified School District

Blue Bird Corporation delivered the first of three electric school buses to Chinle Unified School District in Arizona, the largest school district in the Navajo Nation.

Chinle USD expands its all Blue Bird diesel-powered bus fleet with zero-emission vehicles to put student and community health first while reducing operating costs. Select Blue Bird customers reported an average 14 cents per mile in energy costs for electric buses, compared to approx. 49 cents per mile for their diesel buses.

Blue Bird will provide its most advanced zero-emission school buses to Chinle USD, including two Blue Bird Vision and one Blue Bird All American electric school bus. These electric vehicles carry between 72 and 84 students for up to 120 miles on a single charge. Depending on the charging infrastructure, the buses take between three and eight hours to fully recharge.

Chinle USD is the largest school district in the Navajo Nation in both student count and geographic area. It serves 3,300 students in eight schools, including the largest reservation high school in the United States. School buses travel more than 6,000 miles each day on routes characterized by mostly unimproved roads.

“Beyond the potential that the electric school buses offer for cost efficiency and reducing our fleet’s greenhouse gas emissions, the impact that these EV’s have on student learning and access to world experience is notable,” said Quincy Natay, superintendent of Chinle USD. “Many of our students live in high poverty households and may not have even ridden in electric vehicles. Now, they get to ride to school on a state-of-the-art EV school bus. Our students are very curious, and our drivers have already begun explaining how the buses function differently than the previous diesel buses. Especially for children in remote communities, this is a great way to provide firsthand exposure to science, STEAM careers, environmental issues, and cutting-edge technology.”

As previously reported by School Bus Fleet, the school district received a Transportation Modernization Grant through A for Arizona to upgrade its school bus fleet with three electric vehicles. A for Arizona is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing student achievement in the state, especially in low-income communities.

“Students from low-income areas are disproportionately impacted by diesel pollution from school buses, since the majority of students from related areas ride the bus to school. Zero-emission transportation means cleaner air to breathe and healthier students,” said Britton Smith, senior vice president of electrification and chief strategy officer of Blue Bird Corporation. “We have served Chinle USD for more than 30 years. We could not be more pleased to help the school district transition to electric buses and clean student transportation.”

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