New electric bus to provide cheaper, cleaner rides for students
By this time next year, the Boulder Valley School District could have an electric bus on the road, serving students in the Boulder area.
The district is looking at acquiring electric buses through a grant from the Volkswagen company that would make the vehicles (which typically cost about estimated $200,000-$250,000) a lot more affordable.
“Once the grant money is in place, we would be spending about the same money that we would for any other bus,” said BVSD Director of Transportation Albert Samora.
Switching over to the new technology would be priceless, given the health benefits.
“Electric provides us with the cleanest cabin conditions for our buses. You have no tail pipe coming out of the back of those vehicles so you have zero emissions,” explained Samora.
With advances in battery technology, the buses are able to go further on a single charge, making electric vehicles far more attractive than they’ve been previously. Plus, the buses cost far less to operate. At about $25 dollars a day, Samora estimates that operating the electric buses will cost about half what it takes to run those that use fossil fuels.
“Their cost per mile is about 25 cents per mile. Propane buses are about 45 cents per mile. A diesel bus is about 60 cents a mile,” Samora said. This first electric bus would provide BVSD first hand data to confirm performance and cost.
Recently, representatives from Blue Bird and Adomani, the California company that produces its powerplant, visited Boulder Valley and brought an electric bus with them.
“I wanted to be part of bringing the bus and showing the bus off,” Samora said. “We had people from both companies to answer questions both on the bus-side and on the power-side. We were able to take a group of about 15-20 people for an actual drive for it.”
Samora says the thing he didn’t expect when he was behind the wheel was the bus’s get up and go.
“When I took off, up the hill, leaving Boulder, that bus came up to speed very quickly,” said Samora. “A diesel and a gasoline engine have to spool up to produce torque. Electric engines have instant torque.”
BVSD Transportation has been slowly working on moving its fleet to clean fuel options since 2001, when it invested in natural gas buses. Unfortunately, the technology behind those buses went obsolete, but BVSD didn’t give up. In 2010, the district began buying cleaner diesel vehicles and then purchased propane buses in 2012.
Samora hopes to have one electric bus in service next school year and continue to utilize the the technology with future purchases.
While there are a lot of benefits, don’t expect electric buses on every route just yet. The buses requiring charging stations, something that has been added to the new transportation facility being built in East Boulder. It would take additional resources to retrofit the other transportation facilities in Lafayette or Nederland.
Additionally, Samora says electric is just one tool he’d like to see in BVSD Transportation’s bus portfolio.
“They all have their purpose. The electric vehicles have some limitations. The number of miles they’re capable of going every day, for instance. You have to limit what they do. They’re good for morning and afternoon routes, but you’re not going to use them for trips. The propane buses, you can use for morning and afternoon routes and still use for trips,” Samora said.