School district takes the electric bus test - Powering Greatness

School district takes the electric bus test

In the Bend-La Pine School District and other districts across the state, the wheels on a new yellow school bus will go round, round, round but the bus will make no emissions and a lot less sound, sound, sound.

With help from Pacific Power and the Oregon Clean Fuels Program, new infrastructure investments in central Oregon are charging up one of the state’s first electric school buses in a learning project that will take schoolkids to and from safely and sustainably.

For Tina Bandy, the district’s Assistant Director of Transportation and a former bus driver, the benefits of e-buses start with less fuel and maintenance costs but go far beyond to include its healthy air quality and quiet, relaxing ride.

“If you’ve ever been on a [regular] school bus, they rattle, they’re loud, and it can be pretty nerve-racking,” she says. “In Bend, Oregon, it’s beautiful [with] clean water and air, and we’d like to keep it that way.”

The idea for an e-bus came to Bandy five or six years ago, when she saw one at a conference in Reno. At the time, the cost and range of e-buses was prohibitive, but as the technology improved more community partners became interested.

“Electric school buses are a really exciting form of electrification that we haven’t seen too many examples of in Oregon yet,” says Neil Baunshgard, electric transportation program manager at The Environmental Center, a nonprofit program partner. “It’s really important right now to demonstrate that it’s possible and get folks to experience what the potential is.”

Because e-buses are still new within the school bus transportation industry, the Lion Electric e-bus will be used as a pilot on a fixed route to determine viability for central Oregon communities, which have a colder climate, rolling terrain and longer-distanced routes.

“All the drivers can participate,” says Bandy, “and we’ll get to see who gets the best range and the best economy out of the bus.”

Bandy hopes the benefits are enough to electrify 25% or more of the bus fleet along with its smaller staff vehicles in the coming years.

“I would love to see that.”

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