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Washington Post: A Lesson in Electric School Buses

Posted by Steven Mufson and Sarah Kaplan on Feb 24, 2021

The Washington Post highlighted AEE member Highland Electric Transportation’s innovative electric school bus contract with the Montgomery County school district in Maryland, quoting HET CEO, Duncan McIntyre, cost benefits of electric buses. Read excerpts below and the full story here (sub req). This story was also covered in Green Tech Media and Axios.

Hundreds of electric school buses are about to hit the roads in Montgomery County in an effort to cut tailpipe emissions that warm the planet and can affect student health.

The $1.3 million annual contract, which was approved by the county school board Tuesday, is the biggest single-district project in the country to swap combustion-engine school buses for electric vehicles. The county aims to gradually convert its entire fleet of 1,422 buses by 2035.

The sprawling suburban Maryland district will pay an annual fee to lease the electric buses from Highland Electric Transportation. The Boston-based firm will own, operate and maintain the buses for 12 years as well as train drivers and install charging equipment…

About 300 electric school buses are operating in the United States, [Montgomery County Public Schools Transportation Director, Todd] Watkins said. Because they can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars more than ordinary diesel buses, most school systems are able to afford only a few, usually purchased with donations or grants.

But Highland Electric offers a new model: It will shoulder the high cost of purchasing the vehicles, then earn back its investment through lower maintenance costs.

“We are confident that the electric buses require less labor and fewer spare parts,” said Duncan McIntyre, Highland’s chief executive. He said the battery has fewer moving parts than an internal combustion engine. The repair budget for a conventional fleet “is more than twice our repair budget.”…

Highland plans to buy its vehicles from Thomas Built Buses, a North Carolina subsidiary of Daimler Benz, and use batteries made by California-based Proterra. Proterra says its school bus batteries can completely recharge in three hours.

During the summer, when students are out of school but electricity demand for air conditioning is running high, Highland Electric can use the bus batteries and charging stations to provide the electrical grid with storage capacity…

“Batteries are capable of shifting the peak in summer when solar falls off at 5 or 6 in the evening but the load is still high,” McIntyre said. “Batteries can pick up and help the utility meet the demand.”…

Read the full story here (sub req).

Topics: AEE In The News