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Electric school buses are reaching cost parity with diesel, and a California district will deploy one of the largest e-bus fleets in the state

Lots of news in the segment of electric school buses this week, as Highland Electric Fleets signed an agreement with Thomas Built Buses to provide lower upfront costs to customers and expedite EV adoption; their letter of intent will put the price of an electric bus at cost parity with the traditional diesel option. On the opposite US coast, InCharge Energy and its partners announced a project in Southern California to deploy 42 electric school buses, calling it the largest fleet in the state.

Nearly every week, there seems to be news regarding all-electric buses and North American school districts abandoning diesel for more sustainability. In the past year alone, we’ve seen states like New York call for 100% electric buses by 2035 to spread across the country and deploy tens of thousands more.

Even schools in Alaska are transitioning from diesel in favor of an electric bus option despite temperatures below -40℉! Our neighbors to the North are taking the e-bus transition just as seriously, if not more, by investing nearly $3 billion in zero-emissions buses and infrastructure.

This EV adoption has begun to snowball thanks to federal and state legislation, as well as blossoming technologies like vehicle-to-grid (V2G) capabilities. Last fall, Highland Electric Fleets and Thomas Built Buses helped supply electricity back to the grid for the first time in Massachusetts.

Together, the companies are working to provide electric bus subscriptions to customers at a lower upfront cost, offering a more sustainable option that costs the same as diesel.

The electric school bus reaches cost parity with diesel

The steadfast adoption of all-electric school buses is certain to accelerate if more manufacturers and energy providers can match or beat diesel in cost, like Highland Electric Fleets and Thomas Built Buses (TBB) have.

In a recent press release, the partners announced a signed letter of intent (LOI) that enables Highland to provide electric school bus subscriptions through 2025 at prices that are at cost parity with diesel. This is a huge feat that can enable faster EV adoption in our school districts.

Highland offers school districts and fleets a full-service subscription model that includes the school buses that are manufactured by TB – Highland then implements the charging infrastructure, helps manage bus charging, trains drivers, and manages service.

This subscription approach has already resulted in tremendous interest. In February of 2021, the companies received an order for 326 electric buses from Montgomery County Public Schools, its largest to date. To support this growing fleet, Highland has already installed a 45-charger depot in Bethesda, Maryland. Highland CEO, Duncan McIntyre, spoke to the potential of this LOI:

School districts taking a long-term approach to electrifying their fleets can now do so today, affordably. This relationship allows school districts and fleet operators to go electric at the same cost as a diesel bus. Together with Thomas Built Buses, we have already fulfilled the nation’s largest school bus order. That experience and the quality of their all-electric Jouley school bus makes them a perfect partner to support customers’ long-term success and build cleaner communities.

You can start kissing diesel goodbye, but 320+ electric bus orders is just the start. Fellow manufacturer, Lion Electric, announced a conditional PO last October for 1,000 buses, declaring it the largest fleet in North America. Moving west, InCharge Energy is now claiming it will deploy the largest electric bus fleet in California.

electric bus diesel
Source: InCharge Energy

InCharge Energy to deploy 42 bus fleet in SoCal

InCharge Energy, alongside Creative Bus Sales and IC Bus, shared a press release outlining details of their latest electric bus project that will serve 31,000 students across 42 schools in Southern California.

According to the companies, the new fleet will include 42 electric buses and the necessary charging infrastructure to support them. When delivered, InCharge expects the buses to be the largest operating electric school bus fleet in California.

As part of the agreement, IC Bus and Creative Bus Sales will supply the Moreno Valley Unified School District (MVUSD) with IC electric buses, while InCharge Energy will install and maintain 43 ABB TERRA 24 kW DC fast chargers to support them.

In addition to being better for the environment and Air Quality Index than diesel buses, the electric buses will be much quieter, offering a smoother, less polluted ride for California students. Jim Burleson, Director of Transportation for the MVUSD spoke:

This electric bus project is vital to our students’ futures and it would not have been possible without the help of InCharge Energy, Creative Bus Sales and IC Bus. We know children on school buses are exposed to five times more atmospheric pollutants, which puts them at risk of quite a few health conditions over time. We need initiatives like this to protect our children now and to ensure future generations thrive in a healthy environment.

According to the release, InCharge Energy will begin work on the EV charging infrastructure in April. The MVUSD expects to be transporting its students using all 42 of the electric buses by the start of the new school year.

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Scooter Doll is a writer, designer and tech enthusiast born in Chicago and based on the West Coast. When he’s not offering the latest tech how tos or insights, he’s probably watching Chicago sports.
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