The school district says the new buses are quieter and require less maintenance, meaning lower operational costs overall. Being electric, the school buses will also improve air quality with zero tailpipe emissions.
The electric buses will replace 10 of the district’s heavy-duty diesel buses, which Utah Departmartment of Environmental Quality spokesperson Matt McPherson said will save the district about $76,000 per year on fuel expenses. The bus fleet still includes 27 propane buses and 23 diesel buses.
McPherson said the decision to add the 10 electric buses was not made lightly.
“Before making the decision to apply for funding for the buses, the Utah School District Board of Education considered the health and safety of students and bus drivers, as well as the importance of the local oil and gas industry to Uintah County’s economy,” McPherson said in a press release. The district additionally considered the cost and savings from making such a purchase.
Despite some “legitimate concerns” from board members and stakeholders, the district bought the 10 electric school buses.
A letter to the Uintah School District Superintendent Dr. Rick Woodford from Utah Petroleum Association President Rikki Hrenko-Browning suggested the idea of purchasing the electric buses. Browning said her organization “encouraged any efforts” to reduce emissions and improve air quality.
“The state’s oil and gas association expressed its support for electrifying the district’s bus fleet,” said Woodford. “All things considered, I believe our board members made the right decision for the good of our district, our students, and our community.”
None of the buses nor the charging fracture was purchased using any local capital funds. The project was reportedly fully funded from settlement awards collected by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program rebates.
The Division of Air Quality Director Bryce Bird said he looks forward to seeing the impact the electric buses have and his department will continue to partner with the Uintah Basin on “common-sense strategies” to help improve air quality.