The first 100% electric-powered school bus in the Southeast has been delivered to the Fort Payne City Schools and will be put into service as part of the bus fleet for the 2020-21 school year starting Aug. 12 for students.
The Fort Payne Board of Education voted in January to purchase four new Blue Bird-brand school buses: two of the 2021 Blue Bird Type “D” 78 passenger T3RE 4006 buses costing $397,344 each, along with two conventional diesel-powered 2021 Blue Bird Type “D” passenger T3FE 3909 buses, costing $106,000 each.
The system only paid 25% of this cost, with the remainder funded by a state grant using money Alabama received from the $2.9 billion nationwide settlement against Volkswagen for violating the U.S. Clean Air Act. Superintendent Jim Cunningham praised Transportation Director Laran Crowe-Adkins, whose persistence paid off to get the grant money.
Chris Bible, corporate bus sales manager for Busworx, gave the school board a tour of one of the electric buses and demonstrated its many features in a brief ride. It produces zero emissions for cleaner air, contains fewer parts (for less maintenance costs), can travel up to 120 miles on a single four-hour charge and operates so quietly that an artificial clicking sound is made to alert pedestrians.
“People have asked me, ‘What do you think of the technology?’ It’s pretty strong if I am willing to put it in my back yard and worked so hard to get it here,” said Bible, a Fort Payne native and former school employee.
Blue Bird offered the city an eight-year warranty on the vehicle’s eight Lithium Ion NMC batteries, saving the city $15,000 and covering 175,000 miles. The batteries are expected to operate at 100% for at least 3,000 cycles and have an expected life of 80% after eight to 15 years, depending on usage.
Busworx will train the bus drivers and transportation staff on its use, as well as local first responders.
Bible said electric school buses have been used in California for years, so they have a proven safety record. As schools across the country add all electric powered buses, they will become more affordable and start (along with propane-fueled buses) to replace the diesel versions.