An illustration of electric school bus.
Carson City School District is finalizing a contract with NV Energy to purchase two electric school buses and install the necessary infrastructure after it was chosen to participate in the utility’s Electric School Bus Incentive Program.
The project stems from a bill passed out of the 2017 legislative session called NV Energy’s Electrical Vehicle Infrastructure Demonstration (EVID) program covering 75% of the cost of electric school buses and charging setup. Applicant eligibility is based on NRS 385.007 and serve school routes, according to www.nvenergy.com.
Initial costs are estimated at $400,000, and while the utility does offer to pay for the majority of this portion, CCSD Chief Financial Officer Andrew Feuling said Carson City’s budget concerns two years ago were such that it didn’t seem like the appropriate time to bring the project forward for consideration.
After meeting again this year with NV Energy, Feuling said the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection also stepped forward as a potential partner and expressed interest in the project. NDEP has received a number of grants related to the Volkswagen settlement through which the state of Nevada received $24.8 million out of a total $2.8 billion nationally. This occurred in 2018 after the auto company was discovered installing devices in some cars in an effort to mislead emissions tests and allowed for excessive pollution to occur.
Feuling said NDEP has offered to contribute 40% to Carson City’s electric bus project and would not cover infrastructure but pay for the buses themselves.
With NV Energy and NDEP as partners, the total project cost for two buses and training is $1,258,737, with NV Energy covering 75% of that portion, or $944,053. NDEP is willing to pay up to 40% of the costs, with $314,684 needed, and this covers the entire balance, so there is no cost to the district.
“So it’s my kind of project from that standpoint,” Feuling said.
According to its website, www.blue-bird.com, the school bus manufacturer was the first to market electric school buses in 1994, providing vehicles that do not require engine oil changes, air filter changes, smog checks or testing, spark or glow plugs, transmission maintenance and for which fewer coolant changes are necessary and brake pad change intervals are longer. Blue Bird has sold more than 500,000 units in all and has about 180,000 in operation today, but the company encourages its greener alternatives.
Electric buses go up to 120 miles in a single charge, depending on terrain or driving habits and charge in about eight hours. They reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 54,000 pounds per year, lower maintenance costs and interior air quality also typically is improved significantly, according to NV Energy’s website.
In a follow-up with the Appeal, Feuling and district Director of Operations Mark Korinek said as the scope of the project is being completed, a quote on the request for proposals will be forthcoming on a consultant. However, a bid has been made available for CCSD to join with a project at the Salt Lake City School District in Utah won by Blue Bird Corp., which would be to CCSD’s advantage.
“We can get the same pricing if it’s to our benefit if a district like Salt Lake City is recommending it, and they have huge purchasing power,” Feuling said.
In this case, an RFP would not be needed and it would cost about $150,000 less per bus, a move legal through statute, Feuling and Korinek noted.
But why Carson City for electric buses? Feuling asked during the Nov. 9 presentation. CCSD and the city itself run relatively flat, and they remain compressed in size. The buses theoretically can run longer on a single charge.
Feuling told the Appeal he has the analysis NV Energy gave on routes, which total about 50 around the city using about 45 diesel buses. CCSD runs two routes each morning impacting the elementary, middle and high schools.
Feuling said some additional training will be needed with the department’s drivers and engineers in the district’s garage and the transportation department would work with Blue Bird to make sure buses are fully charged on a regular basis.
Korinek said the project offers advantages for the district’s transportation needs.
“In moving forward, going with electric vehicles is really going to help our state because our state’s really impacted by climate change and heat islands because of our climate and weather patterns,” he said. “That’s probably the main reason, and it is the future. It’s really exciting to hear about the infrastructure patterns coming to Nevada.”
He added he’s had several of Carson City’s classes ask him to present information about electric vehicles, with students also sharing what they’ve learned from their own research.
“Their data was pretty good,” he said. “I’m tired of them telling me we’ve got to get EV buses.”
Feuling said the district prides itself on “pushing the envelope” in terms of using sustainable practices.
“It’s a win for me,” he said. “It seems like a bigger move for the community to offer something like this.”