AVSTA buses

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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FactCheck

Biodegradable batteries?! The article accurately indicates the real range of the buses is half what was “advertised” (since these EV promoters continue to sell hype over facts). Well there are no biodegradable batteries either. In fact, these battery materials are likely mined by child labor in the Congo, controlled by the Chinese, and hopefully properly recycled in the US after use. But they will never “biodegrade”.

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