Featured, Local News

Board greenlights electric school bus purchase

By Curt Peterson

Windsor Central Supervisory Union  Director of Finance and Operations Jim Fenn and Butler Bus Co. proposed purchasing four fully electric school buses for the Barnard and Woodstock bus routes last night, and the board approved the project.

Thomas Bus Co., a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks N.A., in North Carolina, won a bidding process, the results of which Fenn reviewed for the board. Butler will provide in-house repairs and maintenance unless specialized services for the “Jouley” buses are required. W. C. Cressey, a truck dealer related to Thomas, will come to Butler’s site, or remove the bus to one of their service centers if needed.

Cressey is a dealership for Freightliner trucks, which is, like Thomas, a Daimler Trucks, N.A. subsidiary.

Financing will come from a $1.2 million U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “Clean School Bus Rebate Program” grant that was facilitated by Two Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission. 

“Electric buses are expensive,” Jim Fenn told the Mountain Times. “The grant was for $375,000 per bus, and $60,000 for the charging infrastructure.”

The district is ordering “early stock” buses, less expensive because they are already in process of manufacture. They have better (disc) brakes than buses yet to be built, but their charging ports are in the front of the buses. Fenn said it will cost about $1,500 to move the ports to the rear of each vehicle, which the bid request specified.

The EPA funds will be paid directly to the district, but Butler Bus Co., who provides transportation services to district schools, will ultimately own the vehicles.

“(The ownership transfer) document will recognize changes in annual bus costs, etc., and will ultimately be reviewed by our legal counsel and approved by the board,” Fenn said. And, he added, Butler will agree to cover the extra cost for chargers

The grant will require Butler to destroy one fossil fuel bus for each funded electric bus, lest they end up at another school district or in another country. Destruction involves drilling a hole in the engine blocks and removing the buses’ front assemblies, with photographic documentation.

Four designated Barnard and Woodstock routes will use the new buses. 

  The buses, the same size as current buses, are scheduled for delivery in late fall 2023. The advertised range per charge is 138 miles, and the batteries are guaranteed to retain 90 % utility for 10 years.

“That won’t be a problem with any of our current routes, which are forty miles at the most,” Fenn said in August. “They can be recharged between uses.”

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