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Concerns about Electric School Bus Transition Growing Louder
The headlines may trumpet the arrival of a new era in school bus transportation, but I’m hearing grumblings from fleet operators about the shortcomings of shifting to electric. They include:
Installation Time: Installing rows of electric school bus charging infrastructure is a major endeavor that may take 18 months or longer, depending on the complexity of a lot footprint and permitting requirements.
Hidden costs: Beyond unit prices pushing $400,000 each, significant investment is needed to bring power to a site and install the EV charging equipment. U.S. EPA Clean School Bus Program subsidies are limited to hard costs such as buses and charging units. Infrastructure costs like transformers, switch gears, and electric meters, are not covered.
Installation Costs: The cost for Level 3 commercial EV charging stations, known as DC Fast Charging stations, ranges from $10,000 to $40,000 apiece. The units require a dedicated electrical infrastructure to provide from 480 to 600 volts of input voltage and feature a power rate from 25 kW up to 50 kW.
Power consumption: Some districts report they consume 10 to 20 times more power to charge their fleets, further stressing grid capacity.
Charging Time: Some jurisdictions restrict charging during peak hours.
Range: Some fleets claim cold weather operations reduce the advertised range by a minimum of 40 percent.
For those reasons, I encourage districts to learn from the experience of those that have invested multi-millions of dollars and are not getting the performance they expected. Use a propane-powered, off-grid EV charging station to test unit performance before committing to a full transition.
Meanwhile, prominent engine manufacturers such as Cummins are leaning into the economic, operational, and environmental sustainability benefits of propane for their next generation products.
Investments in new technology like the Cummins B6.7 propane engine will enable fleet owners to realize the power of diesel while producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants, ultimately saving on operating costs.