Clean machine: new all-electric school bus hits the road
November 15, 2021
An electric school bus — the area’s first — is now on the road in the Roaring Fork Valley, as Aspen Country Day School begins carrying students to and from school each day on a 77-passenger bus just acquired with a grant from the Regional Air Quality Council.
The Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley electric school bus was dedicated Thursday, November 18 at the PreK-Eighth Grade school’s campus on Castle Creek. Fifth Graders joined the ceremony to present their research on ways we can all reduce carbon footprint, connecting their new school bus with their studies of environmental science. On hand were representatives of the granting organizations, the bus manufacturer and broker, Holy Cross Energy, and clean air advocates.
“At Aspen Country Day School, our goal is to help children become global thinkers whose outlook is grounded in a sense of place and environmental responsibility,” says Head of School Josh Wolman. “An electric bus is a great match for our mission. We are excited to add this new vehicle to our fleet and to welcome students aboard.”
To fulfill the requirements of the $285,000 grant from the Regional Air Quality Council, the school was required to retire a current diesel bus from service and have it destroyed at Trinity Metal Recycling. The grant is part of the ALT Fuels Colorado program, which is managed in partnership with the Colorado Energy Office (CEO), Regional Air Quality Council (RAQC), Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA).
Funding to offset costs of the charging infrastructure and high upfront costs for alternative fuel vehicles comes in part from the 2017 settlement of Volkswagen’s alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. As part of this settlement, Colorado was allocated $68.7 million for funding of electric bus and charging stations. Some 32 electric school buses have been ordered across Colorado, of which three have been delivered. The infrastructure bill signed by President Biden Monday, November 15 includes $5 billion to begin converting America’s school bus fleet to alternative fuels.
Aspen Country Day School runs four daily school bus routes in the Roaring Fork Valley. More than one third of students live outside the Aspen School District and travel from Old Snowmass to Carbondale and beyond to reach the PreK-EIghth Grade school on Castle Creek Road. With current COVID protocols, all children are wearing masks on the bus ride, as they do whenever inside on campus.
School buses are the country’s largest public transportation network, with an estimated 500 million school buses nationwide. Of these, 95% run on diesel, producing 5 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. This is the first electric school bus in the Holy Cross Electric Association service area. Sticker price on the new bus was $368,ooo, compared with approximately of $113,000 for a new diesel bus purchase. An electric charging station adds another $11,000 to the total cost. The grant of $285,000 includes $276,000 toward the bus purchase and $9,000 toward the charging infrastructure. An electric school bus produces zero tailpipe emissions.
Some research shows that replacing all of America’s school buses with electric buses could avoid an average of 5.3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year. The Aspen School District has also applied for grant funding and is due to receive four electric school buses via the ALT Fuels Colorado program. Combined with Holy Cross Energy’s current 44% renewable energy portfolio and 100% goal by 2030, the transition to electric buses carries a meaningful impact to area schools’ carbon footprint.