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FFC8 unveils first electric school bus in El Paso County

 

Last updated 11/2/2022 at 10:03am | View PDF

Karin Hill

Fountain Middle School students disembark after an inaugural ride on FFC8's new electric bus on Oct. 19.

UPDATE: We had asked about the cost of the bus and the grant amount at the ribbon-cutting event, but officials said they did not have those numbers at hand. We obtained those figures at a later date.

E1 Cost: $358,668

The cost of a diesel bus at the time: $128,207

FFC8 received grant: $253,507 (grant included $9,000 for a level 2 charger)

ORIGINAL: The wheels on this bus go 'round and 'round just like any other school bus, but this one is quieter, uses no fuel, and creates no exhaust.

It's the first electric school bus to hit the streets of El Paso County, and it belongs to Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8.

FFC8 students, staff and city officials gathered Oct. 19 to unveil this new vehicle and watch its inaugural trip to Fountain Middle School. Various district officials touted the benefits of the bus, which was purchased largely with grant money. They stated this investment coincides with and helps kick off the districts commitment to health through a Clean Air Initiative, which includes buses no longer idling at schools to create a cleaner air environment for students.

"It's the region's first electric powered school bus, and Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 is proud to lead this exploratory effort on behalf of our fellow districts here in Southern Colorado," said Joel Hamilton, assistant superintendent of human resources.

FFC8 buses travel over 82,000 miles in a month, he said. Daily, more than 4,800 students are transported via bus to school and other activities.

FFC8 Transportation Director Robert Leach came to the district's executive team with the idea of acquiring an electric bus about a year ago. The Board of Education signed on to pursue it, and the district was able to take advantage of grant funding to obtain the E-bus, known as E1.

"In doing so, we are helping to realize Colorado clean air initiatives, as well as incur cost savings over the life cycle of our buses, which benefits the bottom line - the bottom line of our ability to apportion monies elsewhere toward other academic opportunities and academic programs," Hamilton said.

Teresa Wright, board president, said board members initially were a little wary of this new concept. But they were excited to learn that buses have plenty of capability to run their routes without any danger of running out of charge. Bus managers said the average route can easily be completed on one full charge. In some cases, they can get through multiple routes without recharging.

Although more electric buses won't be imminent due to their high cost, the district does plan to acquire more in the future if feasible.

"We anticipate that the cost of future electric buses and their batteries will begin to decrease as technology continues to evolve and improve," Wright said.

Leach said grant funding from the Colorado Office of Energy and Regional Air Quality Council helped offset the majority of the cost of E1.

He described how far student transportation has come in the last 100-plus years, from horse-drawn wagons to wagons assembled on a Model T Ford frame to the buses of today running mostly on diesel.

Karin Hill

"Nearly a century later after the Model T wooden wagon, we have come full circle again, a non-internal combustion engion, not dependent on conventional fuels, transporting our students into a new age," Leach said. "It is our hope that E1 will be the first of many electric buses as Colorado, as a state, we transition to an all-electric fleet.

Locally, E1 will provide a case study in cost comparisons and benefits of electric buses

"Some of the immediate benefits are a cleaner ride, a quieter ride ... but also a smoother ride," Leach said. "We are hoping reduced maintenance costs. Some school districts are reporting 80 to 90 percent reduced costs on brake parts and tires, but also labor costs because electric vehicles require far less mainentance."

E-buses also simplify pre- and post-trip procedures for drivers, make for cleaner shops, and generally less hassle, he said.

 

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