This week’s news about the new US Postal Service truck contract, and the USPS’ decision to order 90 percent of them with internal combustion engines, has been viewed by many as a missed opportunity. Thankfully, the news is better when it comes to electrifying another one of our public services—the school bus. On Thursday, Montgomery County—a wealthy Maryland suburb adjacent to Washington, DC—approved a contract to electrify its entire school bus fleet.
School buses are an ideal candidate for electrification, given the frequent stops and the fact that the buses usually only run a couple of times each day. With more than 1,400 buses, the Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education, which has more than 200 schools and 160,000 students, has one of the largest fleets of school buses in the country. And now it’s getting 326 new ones, the largest single order of EV buses by a school district in the country.
The buses in question are Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouleys, built by Thomas Built Buses and equipped with electric powertrains made by Proterra. The Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley uses a 226kWh battery to achieve a range of up to 135 miles (217km), with up to 81 passengers aboard. The switch to electric power should cut the district’s carbon emissions by 25,000 tons and reduce diesel particulate pollution.
MCPS is getting a little help from the Maryland Energy Association, which awarded the project an $817,000 grant to help offset the costs of electrification. And the school district should be able to further offset the costs, as the buses will be used as vehicle-to-grid energy storage when not ferrying children around. A similar program began last year just over the river in neighboring Virginia, which is in the midst of a 10-year plan to add 1,000 EV school buses.
On the other side of the country, the Los Angeles Unified School District is also about to get a taste of electric propulsion. It, too, announced a new contract for EV school buses, in this case 10 LionC buses built by Montreal’s Lion Electric, each with a range of 155 miles (250km).