-  Image courtesy of Thomas Built Buses

Image courtesy of Thomas Built Buses

As electric school buses continue to gain momentum across the U.S. through federal incentives like the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program, school districts are looking for help in transitioning their traditional bus fleets to electric, including building out electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure.

Building and implementing charging infrastructure can be a daunting task, with challenges like lead times, charger selection, station placement and collaboration with additional stakeholders like utilities and contractors.

The challenge is going through the tough learning process alone. As new players emerge in the industry, districts may not have the necessary expertise to identify and mitigate potential pitfalls.

This is where an electric school bus infrastructure consultant can help, providing valuable insights and helping schools prevent costly mistakes.

What Does an eConsultant Do?

An EV infrastructure consultant, or eConsultant, is an expert on all the variables customers should be aware of to be successful in their transition to electric. eConsultants are knowledgeable on available federal and state incentives, have relationships with relevant stakeholders like utilities and EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment) providers, and can guide the customer through the electrification journey smoothly, ensuring they are well prepared to roll out electric operations and avoid pitfalls along the way.

A common challenge faced by school districts is identifying the most suitable chargers for their specific route requirements, but with the assistance of an infrastructure consultant this challenge can be overcome by developing a plan to execute against their current needs while also ensuring that they have the potential to expand in the future. With the consultant's existing relationships, they can also facilitate communication between the school and utilities, allowing the school to optimize their investment and even sometimes secure additional capacity without incurring any additional costs.

Engage Early

Schools typically go through different phases when it comes to considering or buying EVs, including an “explore” phase (when districts are just thinking about adding EVs) or “evaluate” phase (when districts are weighing their EV options). The first step in working with a consultant is to engage with them during the explore phase, early on when your district is considering implementing an EV program. A consultant can help facilitate a seamless transition to electric school buses and provide valuable information that will help you make an informed decision.

With electric school bus order-to-delivery timelines at approximately 200+ days and infrastructure considerations that could potentially double that, the earlier a school engages on the infrastructure side, the better.

The consultant can help the district plan everything they need to do to ensure that their infrastructure is ready when the electric school buses are delivered.

Little information is required to get started. The consultant may want to start with some initial questions to better understand your school's fleet, the type of operation and the distance traveled by each bus in the fleet. This information can help identify the best routes to be electrified with the best products. The consultant can also help identify what chargers the school will need, taking into account their assets and future plans.

The Best Solution for Your Fleet

“A consultant’s job is to remain agnostic in regards to product recommendations, delivering a best recommendation for your unique operating model,” said Arjun Nair, manager of the EV Program at Thomas Built Buses. “It's important to note that while the consultant's information and support will be tailored to their specific products, their guidance will still be about 90-95% accurate even if you choose a competitor's product, so the information is valuable regardless of how you move forward.”

This means that no matter what type of electric bus you choose, the consultant is there to provide customized guidance and expertise for infrastructure depending on your unique infrastructure needs, giving the customer the right solution for their district.

Taking the Next Steps

Overall, working with an EV infrastructure consultant can make the transition to electrifying your school bus fleet less overwhelming. They have the knowledge, experience, and relationships necessary to guide you through the process and help you make the best decisions for your specific situation.

By engaging with a consultant early on when you are considering adding electric to your fleet (even before buying a bus), you can ensure that your infrastructure is ready when your buses arrive, and you can avoid costly mistakes and delays. Consultants can help you identify and take advantage of resources that you may not have considered or known about otherwise, such as utility programs or consortiums.

Ultimately, working with a consultant can set you up for a successful transition to electric school buses and a more sustainable future.

For more information on services provided by Thomas Built Buses Electric Bus Authority Infrastructure Consulting, or if you're ready to start the process of converting your school bus fleet to electric, you can contact the team here.