Three Rivers Community Schools District ‘very happy’ with 2 EV school buses



(The Center Square) – Two of Three Rivers Community School District’s school buses are quieter than the rest and plug into electricity instead of the gas pump to refuel.

The district about 27 miles south of Kalamazoo has used two LionC electric school buses since 2020 that have a 125-mile range.

One EV bus runs primarily in city limits to avoid diesel idling emissions while the other EV bus runs a rural route. Buses run 50-70 miles daily between a morning and afternoon run.

Three Rivers Community Schools Transportation Director Kenni Jean Schrader told The Center Square that EV buses “create a better environment for kids.”

“Typically, we don’t even have to charge in between routes,” Schrader said in a phone interview. “We can sometimes come back with a 50%-70% charge, and a lot of that is due to regenerative braking and driver habit.”

Buses typically charge overnight.

Three Rivers Community Schools is one of seven Michigan school districts selected to receive a total of 17 electric school buses. The Michigan Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy Department awarded the schools $4.2 million from its Fuel Transformation Program to pay most bus and charging station costs.

A nationwide settlement fine from Volkswagen for installing emission control defeat devices on many of its diesel vehicles funded the program.

The district has 20 diesel-fueled buses and two EV buses, the latter of which they are “very happy” with their performance. Schrader said drivers like EV buses because they deliver a more comfortable ride.

As older buses near the end of their life span, the district is enacting a new transportation center featuring four more EV chargers and infrastructure for another eight.

“We are looking at expanding our EV fleet in the future,” Schrader said.

EV buses have a higher upfront cost but have less maintenance relative to diesel-fueled buses. EV buses require no oil changes, have tires that last longer, and don’t rely on fluctuating diesel prices. Also, regenerative braking recharges the EV’s battery while driving.

“The newer diesel buses cost probably about 35-40 cents per mile,” Schrader said. “In the EV, we’re looking at about 15 [cents per mile].”

“There are some very significant cost savings for an EV bus over an ICE bus,” Schrader said.

Some of the old diesel buses cost up to $1.10 per mile.

The district has repaired an EV bus axle because the warrant expired. They haven’t had to replace tires yet. Overall, EV buses have 70% fewer moving parts.

School districts including Gaylord, Zeeland, Kalamazoo, Oxford, and Roseville received EV buses. Twenty-five districts are also getting 138 EV buses.

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