US schools can subscribe to a fleet of electric school buses at prices above diesel

Electric school buses are all the rage in America. School districts are receiving millions of dollars in federal and state grants and incentives to help them electrify their fleets. The aim is to replace diesel buses with clean, quiet battery-powered models that can reduce fuel and maintenance costs and reduce air and noise pollution.

The companies are also helping school districts that still face the high upfront costs of electric buses and the charging equipment needed to run them.

They offer “subscriptions to electric school buses until 2025 at prices that put them on par with diesel“.

The school district or college pays an all-inclusive subscription fee, which is structured to be less than their current budget to power and maintain their existing diesel fleets.

Other companies are also raising funds from the private sector to address this public sector market. Nuvve, a publicly traded electric vehicle charging and grid connection company, has formed a financing joint venture that has partnered with school bus maker Blue Bird Corp. and other states.

And Canadian electric vehicle maker Lion Electric has teamed up with Zūm, a San Francisco-based startup that provides transportation as a service to multiple school districts, on a project that aims to replace half of the school buses in Oakland, in California. electric models in the coming year.

However, these large-scale electric bus projects remain the exception rather than the rule. Of the roughly 500,000 school buses in the United States, just 0.2% (just over 1,000) were electric at the end of 2021, according to data from the World Resources Institute’s Electric School Bus Initiative. And of the 354 US school districts that have committed to buying electric buses, only 28 plan to deploy 10 or more.

However, this relatively low adoption rate will soon accelerate.

Total cost of ownership, a measure that aggregates the costs of fuel, operating, maintenance and long-term insurance, as well as the residual value of a vehicle, into a single figure, can be reduced with structures that reduce costs or open opportunities to generate revenue for the fleets in question. The right mix of structures could allow electric buses to reach total cost of ownership parity with diesel buses as early as 2025.

In setting the subscription fees they charge school districts, companies like Highland must consider a host of costs and revenue opportunities to ensure they are able to beat the comparable price of diesel bus while making money.

This starts with the purchase and gradual roll-out of electric school buses, which still cost two to three times more than their diesel counterparts, to take advantage of expected cost reductions in the years to come.

Buses with electric motors and batteries are expected to cost less in fuel and maintenance than diesel buses with internal combustion engines. But, as reports of problems with early electric buses indicate, these savings are not guaranteed.

The infrastructure, and its scaling, is really critical. It’s not a big deal when it comes to one or four buses, but it becomes much more of a problem when it comes to transitioning a fleet.

On the other hand, school buses are likely to impose less load on the electrical grid than city buses, garbage trucks or other medium and heavy electric vehicles.

Shorter trips and longer periods of inactivity mean that school buses can be charged at lower intensities for longer periods than commercial vehicles that need to be charged quickly to get back on the road. If there is a depot of hundreds of buses, it is possible that together they will get a decent amount of electricity from the grid.

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