Elma School District adds first of its kind electric school bus

The Elma School District has received a new electric school bus, a first within the state.

In a release from the district, they say that while it is not the first electric school bus within the state, it is the first of its kind.

They say that in June of 2019, Franklin Pierce School District received the first electric school bus in Washington in an all-electric Blue Bird school bus. 

The Elma School District now has a Thomas Built, Proterra Powered battery-electric school bus that was delivered to the district on Wednesday. 

Elma School District Director of Transportation, Caleb Bogar said, “I’ve been the director of transportation at Elma for several years and today was one of the most exciting days in my career.” Elma submitted a proposal for funds two years ago and the bus had to go through a series of tests before receiving approval for pupil transportation.

The new bus carries up to 81 passengers and features state of the art technology including what the district says is “the fastest, most efficient charging and largest standard battery capacity of any electric bus”. 

“The bus is also equipped with Intellipark braking, SmartTrac electronic stability control, and booster seats built into each passenger seat to ensure the safety of even its smallest passengers. The fully electric school bus can reach speeds of 65 MPH and can run for over 138 miles before needing to be recharged. A regenerative braking system feeds system back into the bus during normal operation.”

An electric charging station was installed at the Elma Transportation CO-OP. 

The total cost of the bus was noted as $368,236.

Elma School District says they purchased the electric school bus with funding from a Department of Ecology grant provided by the Volkswagen settlement.

The electric bus has created quite the buzz amongst Elma school bus drivers, according to Bogar;

“I’ve already had several drivers ask if they can drive the bus on their route.” Drivers will not need any new certifications but they will receive training on the break system. The district will evaluate topography to determine which route will be most suitable for the new bus.

The Elma School District will be pursuing another Department of Ecology grant to purchase more electric school buses in the future.

“Transitioning to electric school buses offers multiple benefits to students and the community. In addition to providing a transportation solution with zero tailpipe emissions, battery-electric vehicles offer great efficiency with fuel cost savings as well as lower maintenance and operating costs. The district will save an estimated 60% per year in fuel costs compared to a traditional diesel bus. The zero emission vehicle creates a healthier environment for the students and residents compared to its traditional diesel counterpart. In addition to being emissions-free, the bus is also virtually noise free. This means a better driving and riding experience and a safe environment in which students are quieter and drivers are more aware of what is happening on the bus.  Three more buses of its kind are expected to be delivered to Washington State schools in coming weeks.”