LANCASTER — Antelope Valley Schools Transportation Agency will more than double the size of its future fleet of electric school buses thanks to a grant from the California Energy Commission.
The Energy Commission had $76 million in grant funds to distribute to school districts and county offices of education for alternative fuel vehicles. The AV School Transportation Agency applied for 10 vehicles and got 10 vehicles.
The agency will get four electric buses — two Type “D” buses, or the larger transit buses, and two Type “C” buses that are the larger special education buses. The agency also will receive six new compressed natural gas buses. The agency will have to contribute about $35,000 for each of the compressed natural gas buses to complete the grant. The buses cost about $205,000 each.
“The compressed natural gas buses we have to contribute about $35,000 per bus to complete the grant. Those buses are about $205,000 apiece so $35,000 is a deal,” AVSTA CEO Morris Fuselier said.
The grant will fully fund the electric buses, which cost about $430,000 each. The grant includes $260,000 for infrastructure for the electric buses and $100,000 for infrastructure on the compressed-natural gas buses. The agency has another grant for a compressed-natural gas bus from the Rural School Bus Pilot Project program.
The four electric buses the agency will get through the California Energy Commission will be added to the three electric buses the agency is working on getting through the Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District. The agency will purchase up to three 78-passenger Blue Bird electric buses at a discounted rate of about $40,000 each through the district.
That will give the agency seven electric buses, making it one of the largest fleets in the state behind Twin Rivers Unified School District, about 12 miles northeast of Sacramento in McClellan Park, which has a fleet of about 18.
AV Schools Transportation Agency serves the Antelope Valley Union High School District, Lancaster and Westside Union school districts. Fuselier said the electric buses will most likely be used in town.
“Everything cuts down on the range,” he said.
That’s because of factors such as running the air conditioning, heater, and lights that can drain the battery quicker.
The advertised range for the electric buses’ batteries is about 100 to 140 miles, but the actual range is probably closer to 65 to 70 miles, Fuselier said.
Antelope Valley Transit Authority, which is working toward establishing an all-electric fleet this year, has the infrastructure in place to charge its buses on the fixed routes. That allows the AVTA to charge buses as they go. The AVSTA routes change often, so the agency can’t use a similar charging system. The agency will most likely use the buses on shorter runs in town where they can return to the bus yard for a charge.
“It has very moving parts, almost no fluids, zero emissions; the batteries are all biodegradable and safe so it’s really the way to go environmentally,” Fuselier said.
The agency is looking at different electric bus companies including Blue Bird and Canadian-based bus manufacturer The Lion Electric Company.
“It’s kind of exciting because it does kind of put us on the forefront of that, at the same time you want to be kind of hesitant because it’s extremely expensive right now,” Fuselier said.
As the technology improves the costs will go down and more manufacturers join the market.
“In the future we think it’s going to be the way to go it’s just going to take a while to get there, I suspect,” Fuselier said.
The agency is expected to get the Blue Bird electric buses via the AV Air Quality Management District by the start of the 2019-20 school year. The electric buses from the California Energy Commission will take longer, probably a year. The compressed-natural gas buses are expected to arrive in time for the start of the new school year.
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