Are Electric School Buses a feasible investment for our district?

Sarim Khan, Staff Writer

The slow chugging noises of diesel engines ring in your ears, bright yellow bricks slowly fill up the bus lane, and your eyes water from the diesel smoke. Young kids cough from the black smog. The school buses have just arrived to collect students to transport them home for the day.

But that could change. These old, inefficient diesel buses could be swapped out in exchange for buses fueled with a different power source. Enter, electric buses.

Typically, diesel buses are expensive to maintain. Diesel costs an average of $5 per gallon. For a bus that can hold 60-100 Gallons of it, fuel comes out to $300-$500 per bus to fill up. With the average local electricity rates, an electric bus costs around $14 of electricity to charge. 

The efficiency of an electric bus can easily be shown when comparing one to the fuel economy of a diesel school bus. The Issaquah School District uses the Blue Bird All-American school bus, which averages just 6 miles traveled per gallon of diesel. Busses idling uses a lot of fuel, whether it’s waiting for traffic or just letting off students at their stops, while an electric equivalent uses virtually no power while sitting.

Also, these buses can be charged in their downtime at night, unlike diesel buses that need to go to a fuel station. The decrease in fuel costs and the subsequent lack of repair costs from having no engine means that the funds not being spent on the buses can be allocated into different channels, such as technology, sports, or school supplies. The subsequent increase in spending on other activities means that the quality of the activities/education of the students’ increases, and the students reap the benefits. 

Seeing the benefits of the lower maintenance costs of the buses, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean School Bus” program is providing $5 Billion to districts across the country so that they can upgrade their school bus fleet to hybrid & electric buses in the coming years through various rebates. Electric school buses can cost around $200 thousand to purchase, making them 2-4 times as expensive to purchase over a comparable diesel bus.

It is clear that the introduction of electric school buses into the school district’s fleet would be a beneficial move for both the administration and the students. Despite the high upfront cost to purchase an electric bus, the resulting savings make these buses a worthwhile investment in the long term.