Case Studies, Reference Checks and Feedback

I interviewed administrators at multiple school districts who acted as reference accounts as my school contemplated the switch to electric buses. With their consent, I saved detailed transcripts of the conversations and below is a summary of what some of them described as the benefits and drawbacks of the switch.

Note: Throughout the course of my interviews, I learned about the economics of each individual deal, the particular geographical challenges facing each district (size, weather, etc.), and other case-specific factors. Keeping in mind that all schools and districts have slightly different profiles, many of the issues they highlighted may have been particular to them, specifically around issues of financing, grants, and pricing.  If you are interested in more specific details of my research please reach out to me at CharlieDruker@GreenYellowBus.org and I can send a full report of my conversations.

Mountain Landscape

I am in discussions with schools and school districts in:

  • California

  • Florida

  • Illinois

  • Massachusetts

  • Oregon

  • Rhode Island

  • Virginia

  • Vermont

  • Washington

  • Washington D.C.

Green Values:

In talking with schools that made the switch, the most compelling and surprisingly widespread sentiment was the notion that electric buses reinforced the core values of the schools. They all felt that their electric bus fleet was especially visible and expressed values they projected in their community and expressed in their mission statements. While these won’t be the same for every school, if your school is one that values your environmental impact and carbon footprint, transitioning to electric buses offers an opportunity to be a leader in your greater community, but also to reinforce these values to your students, faculty, parents, and alumni.

Grey Cubicles

Summary of Results:

Pros:

  • Every school described the switch fitting with their school’s green values and strengthening their community

  • Potentially fully covered by grants (A Massachusetts school superintendent “didn’t pay a dime”)

  • Removes diesel exhaust pollutants from the greater atmosphere but also the air that the kids are directly breathing

  • Brand-new, high quality buses (review of the physical bus was wholly positive–see quotes below)

  • Provides an opportunity to be a community leader on an important and highly visible issue (The electric vehicle designation is prominently and proudly displayed on the buses)

Cons:

  • Range Anxiety- The only con was the issue that one school district superintendent dubbed “Range Anxiety.” Since the bus is more expensive to charge during peak power-demand periods, the charging requirements and bus routes have to be carefully planned out to ensure that buses are never forced to charge during the day. Field trips, sports, and after-school activities can sometimes therefore become “stressful.” This is an issue that was relevant only in the case of a very physically large school district, where bus range was an issue, since electric vehicles have less range than diesel ones.

Highlight Quotes:

“Kids love it. An electric school bus is just like a big golf cart. It rides smoother… it is a quieter ride, and it is a healthier ride.”-Superintendent of school in large midwestern state, name available upon request.

“We are really, really happy with it. It is a high quality product.”- Massachusetts school superintendent

“It’s nothing but positive. It’s work to do the research but once you do the research you understand it is the right way to go. There are no cons really when you look at the emissions and the air quality with diesel versus electric...including noise. 9/10.”- Head of Transportation Services, Northeast School District

Quotes acknowledging range anxiety:

“There is no real drawback, just a change of mindset. You have to be a little bit more cognizant of the energy supply. We know we are good for our routes and we know our typical sports schedule (they don’t play anyone who is further than 50 miles away), so if they leave here with a full charge, even with the bluebird (this is the smallest bus on the market and it still has 120 mile range) we know that we won’t have range problems. So if we do have a tournament or something outside the normal routes then we just have to plan our buses a little bit and we will always be fine. But that's not really a drawback, it's just a change.” -Superintendent, Large Midwest School District

“After the bus does all of its runs, it is completely done for the day. You cannot have a stop that is not planned beforehand like you would with diesel buses because diesel buses can be refueled at any time. If you want to be economical about it, electric buses can only be charged at night.”- School Superintendent, New England area

“We did it because it was very consistent with the community's values and we got the deal fully subsidized. This is a very green community and we have a net zero bylaw in this community. Kids are really excited about it and adults are really excited about it as well, because cost isn’t really a factor the challenge here is that if we add more and more electric buses we would lose the capacity to do field trips and extracurricular activities so until the technology improves or some other things change well stick with the current fleet balance.” Superintendent Northeast State School District, discussing why he did not transition to a fully electric fleet.