An increasing number of school districts are testing and adopting electric buses, joining the movement to help promote safer, more reliable and cost-effective transportation for students.

man charging an electric school bus

School districts and contractors leveraging battery-powered buses gain several benefits, including:

  • Lower operating costs
  • Improved student safety and community health
  • Less frequent maintenance
  • Simplified fueling

While transitioning buses to electric can be a complex project, districts working with an electrification service provider will reduce upfront cost barriers and help ensure schools can design and install an energy infrastructure that supports future fleet scalability needs.

1- Reduced Total Cost of Ownership

A primary advantage of electric school buses is lower total cost of ownership (TCO). The upfront cost of an electric bus is approximately $120,000 more than an internal combustion engine bus, but an electric school bus will save fleet operators an estimated $170,000 to $240,000 in lifetime fuel and maintenance costs.1 Districts taking advantage of federal and state grants, rebates and other incentive opportunities will further reduce overall costs.

Early-adopter pilot runs of schools rolling out electric buses have already demonstrated TCO gains.

West Fargo Public Schools, in North Dakota, runs 63 bus routes each day. In 2018, the district inquired about electric school buses and received the state’s first zero-emission electric bus the following year.2

“The initial cost of the bus was three times more than a diesel bus. But the bus’s operational costs are only one-fourth that of our district’s diesel buses,” said Brad Redmond, West Fargo Public Schools’ transportation director.

Redmond added that the district’s existing diesel bus fleet spends an average of 42 cents per mile on fuel compared to 14 cents per mile in energy costs with the electric bus. The battery-powered bus averages between 25 and 34 miles per gallon compared to 7 miles per gallon for its diesel counterparts.

The district runs its electric bus for an estimated 100 miles before charging it for a few hours after each route, which drivers say is easy to manage.

In Tacoma, Wash., the Franklin Pierce School District runs 51 bus routes each day within a 14-square-mile area. It received $330,000 in grant money to electrify one bus from its mid-’90s model fleet and install a charging station.3

Franklin Pierce School District buses typically cover 12,000 to 15,000 miles per year. After one year of operation, the electric school bus produced $8,000 in fuel savings.

2 - Student and Community Health Benefits

Schools using buses that emit zero emissions are safer for students, nearby people and the environment.4 Electric buses are also quieter to operate compared to diesel-powered buses, which Redmond says promotes good student behavior and helps reduce driver fatigue.

“Learning to drive the bus was easy, but one of the biggest benefits has been how much better the students behave due to the reduction in the bus noise levels,” he added.

Buses leveraging electric power also have a positive impact on student cognitive functioning. Studies show that students perform better academically and have better overall health when exposed to fewer emissions than other children.5

3 - Reduced Maintenance and Repairs

Electric school buses have fewer moving parts than their diesel-powered counterparts, meaning they are less likely to need repairs or replacements over time. For school districts, electrification means their fleet will have more uptime than existing diesel buses to transport students more reliably. Another benefit of electric buses is converting kinetic energy to battery charge via regenerative braking technology, which also creates better fuel efficiency and decreases the wear on brakes and tires.

Electric buses also eliminate the need for fleet operators to conduct traditional maintenance tasks for diesel-powered vehicles, including:

  • Oil and brake fluid changes
  • Engine tuneups
  • Spark plug, drive belt or fuel filter replacement

4 - Convenient Fueling

Unlike diesel-powered buses, battery-powered buses can be fueled directly on the school campus or at the bus garage, freeing up time for bus drivers. On-site charging infrastructure allows drivers to keep buses optimally fueled without returning to a central depot, increasing reliability and enabling longer-range route planning.

“We have saved money in fuel and employee hours since there are no runs to the fuel station. And our transportation department employees value that there is no emission buildup in the bus garage,” said Redmond.

Since school bus fleets have predictable schedules with long breaks in between use (both during the school day and during the summer), fleet owners have the opportunity to leverage vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology to generate revenue. Buses not in use can charge when prices are low and participate in grid services for use during peak demand periods.

If you are a school bus fleet owner considering electrification, eTransEnergy can help. We provide academic institutions and other organizations with end-to-end fleet electrification solutions, from pre-planning to full rollout and scale. We collaborate with fleet operators to identify the most efficient and cost-effective way to execute electric bus projects to help ensure schools can safely and dependably transport students. If you have any questions about battery-powered buses or are interested in fleet electrification services, feel free to reach out to the eTransEnergy team.

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