(Posted March 8, 2023)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Madison-Plains Local Schools will add four electric school buses to its fleet sometime early next year.
The district received a $1,580,000 state grant to purchase the buses and two charging stations. Each charging station can charge two buses at the same time.
Madison-Plains will spend a little over $100,000 to install electric service for the charging stations and to outfit the buses to district specifications. The grant does not cover those expenses.
A new diesel school bus costs between $110,000 and $120,000. The way district administrators see the grant versus out-of-pocket expenses, the district is getting four new buses for less than the price of one.
“This is an opportunity for us to really make some headway on our bus acquisitions and update our fleet,” said Superintendent Chad Eisler.
Currently, the district maintains a fleet of 20 diesel buses. The state recommends that buses be retired after 10 years of use. Over the past several years, Madison-Plains has made an effort to buy two new buses each year. By the time the oldest buses are cycled out, they have been in use for no more than 10 years.
Treasurer Todd Mustain said the acquisition of the four electric buses at one time likely will allow the district to skip its routine bus purchases for a year, keeping money in school coffers for other expenses.
There’s a chance the electric buses will reduce operating expenses, as well. Time and usage will tell.
“Based upon the information we’ve been given and the research we have done, it appears that the electric buses are going to operate at and likely below the current operating costs for a diesel bus,” Eisler said.
The electric buses will get 130 miles to a charge in ideal conditions. On average, the range will be closer to 110 miles to a charge.
Mustain said the district will use the electric buses conservatively at first, assigning them to shorter routes close to campus. The shorter routes run 60 to 80 miles total. The same electric bus could run a short route in the morning, then charge up and be ready to run another route in the afternoon. The district will push the electric buses to longer routes if all goes well with early trials. The buses will not be used for long field trips.
The state grant stipulates that the electric buses must remain in service for at least five years. If the district decides to sell them after the five-year mark, proceeds can be used in any way the district sees fit.