by Kate Evans
Morgan County Schools Transportation Director Tammy Painter told the Morgan County School Board at their August 16 meeting that they are working on getting a five-year grant to purchase five electric school buses every year over the course of five years.
Painter said that while grants are given out in a lottery system, Morgan County is considered a priority.
If the county is selected for the grant, the school board would receive up to $375,000 per school bus and up to $20,000 per charging station, Painter said. The grant includes a charging station for each bus.
Any electric buses they acquire would be for route buses and not used for long trips, she noted.
Cheapest fuel, no emissions
The electric bus battery warranty is for eight years and batteries provide 126-128 miles per charge, Painter said. Electricity is the cheapest fuel source and there are no emissions from the buses themselves.
Painter said she got a quote of $326,00 for an electric bus with just the basics and no air conditioning. With air conditioning and other features, the price was $396,000. In electric buses, the air conditioning runs the batteries and cools them. School officials picked Thomas buses for a manufacturer.
Painter said that Berkeley County is considering purchasing electric school buses and buying chargers.
There is a two-day mechanic training program and an in-service training for the drivers, Painter said. The bus manufacturer brings a crew down to provide the training and explain the differences between electric and traditional buses.
“The gauges are so different,” Painter told the school board.
The state currently has six electric buses out on a pilot program. Painter said she didn’t sign up for those 90-passenger buses, because they are slightly wider and taller than the usual 77-passenger. Painter said there are many Morgan County roads where she suspects those larger buses wouldn’t fit.
There are 21 counties on the priority list for the electric bus program including Morgan County, Painter said. A county can still apply for the grant if they aren’t on the priority list. There are no federal matching funds required.
Electric school buses are very quiet. Painter said that her own vehicle is louder than an electric bus.
School board member Laura Smith asked how long the electric buses take to charge. Painter said it depends on the type of charging station. It can take from one and a half hours to 10 hours to charge.
School Superintendent Kristen Tuttle said they thought the information was important for the board to know. The state wants counties to apply for the electric bus grant. One county per state gets 25 buses. It’s new territory and the State Legislature is heavily in support of it.
Painter also told the school board that they bought two gasoline buses but they don’t have them yet. They hope to have them by November.