On November 30th a Blue Bird electric school bus quietly made its way into Fredericksburg, Virginia and on December 1st it made some noise with a demonstration event for Fredericksburg City Pubic Schools. On Wednesday, December 1st, Fredericksburg City Public Schools, ABM, and Virginia Clean Cities came together to host an electric school bus demonstration event with Blue Bird Bus Sales of Virginia to show how electric school buses can serve the school district and its surrounding communities.
With the Fredericksburg City Councils’ pledge to power all city operations with renewable energy by 2035, and recent announcements in funding and support for electric school buses at the state and federal level, this demonstration came at an ideal time for the school district. While an electric school bus does come in at about three times the cost of a diesel bus, there are a variety of funding programs and incentives available and more coming down the pipeline. To move forward to a cleaner, green future, the city and schools are working together with ABM on an energy performance contract to finance their investments in clean energy projects such as the transition school bus electrification.
In addition to helping achieve the cities goals, electric school buses offer a number of benefits to school districts and the communities they serve:
Electric school buses operate quietly, which lessens traffic noise in communities and this quieter operation can help drivers maintain better focus on the road and the students that they are transporting.
Reduced Operating Costs
While being more expensive upfront than their diesel counterparts, electric school buses can save school districts in the long term with their reduced fuel and operating costs. The lower costs of electricity as a fuel and the availability of managed charging, allow fuel for an electric school bus to cost up to 80% less than its diesel counterparts. Maintenance costs are also lowered with electric technology. Without engines, transmissions, or emission filters, electric school buses require less maintenance than diesel buses and can save school districts up to 60% in maintenance costs.
Reduced Emissions and Improved Health
Most importantly, electric school buses produce zero tailpipe emissions. Traditional diesel-powered school buses emit harmful local pollutants, including NOx and particulate matter. Standing closer to tailpipe height and with higher activity levels and rates of respiration, children are more susceptible to the harms of these pollutants. Poor ventilation systems in diesel school buses can also exacerbate the pollutant problem, as concentrations inside the bus can reach up to 10 times that of ambient levels outside the bus. Since electric school buses have zero tailpipe emissions they provide an immediate positive impact on local pollutant levels. Additionally, electric school buses purchased today will continue to become better at emissions reduction as energy generation shifts to support more renewable energy sources. These buses will green with the grid!
The demonstration began at the Walker-Grant Center where the bus was parked for demonstration attendees to witness the technology first hand. The event was attended by the school district and city, as well as individuals from local utilities, and other community members. While the bus was on display, Virginia Clean Cities, ABM, and Blue Bird answered questions about the technology, financing, tax incentives, and funding opportunities, and then audience members were invited in for a presentation from Blue Bird about the specifics of their electric school bus offerings.
After the presentation, the demonstration bus made its way to James Monroe Highschool where it was used to teach a high school science class about alternative fuel technology. Then, the bus, adorned with the school district’s name, took the students for a spin. As the bus drove off there were many remarks about how quiet the vehicle was, and when it returned the only noise you could hear was the excited chattering of the students.
At the end of the day, the bus returned to Frederickburg’s transportation facilities where it would remain for a couple of days to allow the school district’s bus drivers and fleet staff to get first-hand experience operating the technology.
With ABM and Virginia Clean Cities support, Fredericksburg will continue to review available electric school bus technology as they work to find the best fit for the fleet’s needs.
If you are a school district or transportation contractor interested in an electric school bus demonstration, Virginia Clean Cities has an electric school bus demonstration project available to school districts and their transportation contractors in Virginia, Washington DC, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Check out our project page to learn more and reach out to Program Coordinator Sarah Stalcup-Jones if you would like to participate.