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Submitted by North Thurston Public Schools

North Thurston Public Schools is going green! As part of an ongoing effort to promote clean energy, the district added three electric school buses to their fleet of green vehicles at the start of the 2021 school year. The district already invested in five electric cars and several propane school buses, but a $720,000 Air Quality Volkswagen Replacing School Buses with All-Electric School Buses grant from the Department of Ecology made the purchase of the three electric buses possible.

North Thurston Public Schools Electric bus 61
Photo courtesy: North Thurston Public Schools

These buses are used on routes for multiple schools and all grades, serving as reliable transportation for students with disabilities. Transportation Specialist John Harrington drives one of the electric buses on his daily route, covering 90 to 100 miles in a shift and appreciates the opportunity to drive this new bus.

“The cool factor for these buses is 100%,” Harrington says. “This bus gets a lot of attention.” The quiet environment inside the bus has allowed him to interact with his riders and build better relationships. Even their families are more inclined to greet the bus and chat.

Blue Bird’s electric buses (the NTPS model) average 25 to 34 miles per gallon compared to the seven miles per gallon achieved by a standard diesel bus. Each bus gets a full charge in just three hours and can then run for about 120 miles. In addition to the lack of fuel costs, these buses require much less maintenance than standard buses. No oil or air filter changes, no plug or coil maintenance, and no transmission work are just a few perks. Plus, zero emissions means that riders don’t have to endure a cloud of exhaust smog getting on and off the bus.

“We are open to the possibility of increasing our fleet of electric buses,” explains Deanna Maddux, the district’s Transportation Director. Her department will be making a recommendation to the district once they’ve had adequate time to evaluate the buses and the requirement for additional charging infrastructure. Additional grant opportunities will be sought should the district decide to move forward with expanding the fleet, saving taxpayer dollars and helping the planet!

North Thurston Public Schools Electric bus 55
Photo courtesy: North Thurston Public Schools

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