Hamilton Southeastern Schools rolled out its first electric school bus earlier this month. The bus is the second in Hamilton County, with Carmel Clay Schools unveiling its in 2020.
The bus is the first in what HSE Director of Transportation Zach McKinney hopes will be the first in a fleet of 12 buses in the future.
For now, though, the electric bus, which McKinney said some kindergarten students are calling “a Tesla,” is running six routes a day — three in the morning and three in the afternoon. The bus is servicing New Britton Elementary, Riverside Intermediate Junior High School and Fishers High School.
On average, the bus carries 55 students. It is charged and serviced at the HSE transportation building. McKinney estimates the bus can run two days on a full charge, but to reduce the risk of running out of its power source, the bus is charged between routes eacg morning and afternoon.
The idea for the electric bus had been on McKinney’s mind for a while, but he decided to pursue it when a student, Juliana Gillmore, brought the concept to his attention in 2020.
In the long run, McKinney said the electric bus will save the district money. It received a grant from the Volkswagen Mitigation Fund for a little more than $300,000, McKinney said. The total cost of an electric bus is a little more than $400,000. HSE paid about $120,000, which is less than the cost of a diesel bus.
“We’re being good stewards of our environment, but then also good stewards of our money,” McKinney said, “Granted, right now the cost of (the electric school bus) is relatively high in comparison to diesel, but we’re seeing that cost of ownership come down, so in the long run, once that cost kind of levels out from a diesel to electric, you’re going to see that the savings is there.”
McKinney also said this new bus will change the environment on school buses.
“It’s cool technology, it’s different and it’s so quiet on the inside,” McKinney said. “You have all that engine noise and the inside of the cab in traditional diesel, so when you get on (the electric bus), you can hear everything. It’s just a completely different ride in a school bus, so it’s exciting to see it develop and get implemented in our district.”