Hughson's Bus Fleet Going Electric

Hughson’s bus fleet going electric; 4 diesel buses to be replaced thanks to $1.6 million state grant
Posted on 01/27/2021
Electric bus

The Hughson Unified School District is poised to become one of the first districts in Stanislaus County to feature electric buses, a move made possible thanks to a $1.6 million grant it received from the state of California.

The money will cover the lion’s share of the cost of four pollution-free 100% electric buses from GreenPower Motor Co., based in the Tulare County town of Porterville. Each new bus has a price tag of about $420,000, but thanks to the state grant, the district will only be out of pocket about $20,000 for each 90-passenger vehicle.

The new buses will replace four diesel-powered vehicles that all are about 30 years old, according to Lara Haverly, the district’s transportation supervisor. It was Haverly who heard about the grant while at a conference in November 2019. She quickly applied and the district learned last August it had been awarded the money.

 

“We applied for several grants and were runner-up every time, and then we finally got the best of all the grants,” Haverly said. “The others only gave about half the purchase price and this one gives almost the full purchase price.”

It will take about six months for the 40-foot buses to be built. The district hopes they will arrive in time for the start of the 2021-22 school year in August; if not, it shouldn’t be too much after that. They will be used on the four routes that service the district’s 2,100 students. Haverly said about 400 students are eligible for bus transportation, but daily ridership averages about 280 when school is in session.

In addition to its share of the buses’ cost, the district will invest about $140,000 to expand its maintenance and bus parking area behind Hughson Elementary School, where the buses will be housed and the required charging stations located.

“We will get the whole project, including the infrastructure and $1.6 million worth of electric buses, for the price of one diesel bus,” Haverly explained.

The district projects it will save about $38,000 annually on fuel and maintenance during the 25-year expected lifespan of the electric buses compared to diesel alternatives – a total of about $1,152,200. Some of the yearly savings will be set aside to replace the four large batteries every eight to 10 years that power the new buses, said Andy Fontana, the district’s maintenance and operations director. The district also will apply for energy-related rebates of up to $6,000 per bus from the Turlock Irrigation District, he said.

“These buses are a lot better for our environment. This is really exciting,” said Fontana.

Each new bus will rack up 10,000 to 18,000 miles a year, depending upon which route it services. The old buses will be crushed, as required by the state grant. Hughson still will have seven diesel buses that will be used primarily for field trips and sports travel, Haverly said.

Hughson Unified is believed to be one of the only districts in Stanislaus County that will rely on electric buses. Hughson already has four electric carts used by its maintenance staff as well as some hybrid vehicles.

“We are very excited about the grant and our ability to leave a lighter environmental footprint,” said Superintendent Brenda Smith.  “The school board members unanimously approved submitting the grant and showing that we are making a commitment to clean energy vehicles. Not only is it a great choice for our environment, but our district has made a smart financial decision as well.”

The grant money from the state comes from a $423 million settlement it reached in 2018 with Volkswagon after the German automaker admitted cheating on nitrogen oxide emissions testing for its vehicles.

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