The school year is starting, so the buses will be full. However, you can see a significant difference this year as emissions-free electric school buses spread across the United States. One of the nation’s leading manufacturers of school buses, Buses manufactured by Thomasjust reached a major milestone with the help of its Virginia dealer, Sonny Merryman—the Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley Electric School Buses have now traveled over 500,000 miles.

Electric school buses are designed for a cleaner and more sustainable future. Not only do they produce zero emissions, they’re also more efficient, can cost less to maintain, and have capabilities that their gas-powered counterparts lack.

450,000 yellow school buses travel across the United States over 4.3 billion miles each year, according to the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

More importantly, toxic emissions from traditional school buses can harm students, bus drivers and the communities in which they travel.

Although the EPA has introduced stricter standards, it is not enough, as many school buses still emit harmful diesel exhaust. As federal funding for electric school buses has become more available, the transition makes sense.

As of June 2022, 38 states have adopted electric school buses thanks to several initiatives such as the $5 billion Clean school bus program.

Meanwhile, states like Virginia are taking the lead to secure funding and speed up the transition. For example, in 2019, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Dominion Energy announced initiative to deliver 13,000 electric school buses by the end of 2030.

Through programs like these, Virginia has grown to have the second largest fleet of electric buses in the nation, with 64 Thomas Built electric school buses currently in operation. A major milestone is that the electric school buses have driven more than 500,000 miles, and more buses are expected to be delivered as the school year progresses.

The rise of electric school buses in Virginia Source: Sonny Merryman

Thomas Built Buses has driven 500,000 electric miles in Virginia

The first electric school bus to roll out in Virginia was the Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley from Thomas Built Buses in November 2020.

one C2 Joly the electric bus can transport 81 students with a range of up to 138 miles and a standard battery capacity of 226 kWh.

There are now 64 electric buses in Virginia. The first 50 were purchased and deployed through the Dominion Energy program, and the remaining 14 were purchased with funds from American Power’s electric school bus program.

The 500,000 miles include a variety of terrain (towns, villages and hills) and distances from less than 20 miles to more than 90 miles. Although the electric buses were mainly used for regular school routes, some were used for field trips, band competitions, etc.

Using electric buses for these trips, According to the AFLEET tool, 447.7 short tons of greenhouse gases were avoided.

Through the experience thus far, Thomas Built Buses dealer Sonny Merryman and his customers have learned a few critical lessons that can help others deploy electric buses safely and efficiently:

  • Train drivers and technicians properly for a smooth transition.
  • Consider assigning a partner or team to assist with deployment.

Perhaps most importantly, the electric buses have withstood various operational tests, and drivers who have switched to Jouley’s electric school buses have loved them so far, according to the school bus dealer.

Electrek’s Take

First off, congratulations to Thomas Built Buses and Sonny Merryman on a big milestone. Electric school buses protect students and the community from harmful emissions while saving school districts money on fuel and maintenance in the long run.

At the same time, I believe there are important takeaways from this case study. Public funding works, and electric buses are the future. Virginia proves it. California proved it. State leaders must get involved to accelerate the transition. There are no excuses now.

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