Aspen School District – Fleet Success Story

March 15, 2024
Location: Aspen, CO
Fleet Type: School District



Aspen School Dis­trict (ASD) serves over 1,500 stu­dents across its five schools. In 2018, ASD began plan­ning for the elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of its fleet, con­sist­ing of 21 full-sized school bus­es. The school dis­trict applied to the ALT Fuels Col­orado Pro­gram, fund­ed by the Volk­swa­gen Diesel Emis­sions Envi­ron­men­tal Mit­i­ga­tion Trust, and received $1.36 mil­lion in fund­ing for four elec­tric school bus­es (ESBs) and four Lev­el 3 chargers.

In March of 2023, ASD received its first two Blue Bird ESBs. The remain­ing two ESBs were added to the dis­trict fleet in Octo­ber, round­ing out its ini­tial round of deploy­ments. The school district’s ESBs serve one Aspen route, two Snow­mass Vil­lage routes, and one high­way route, aver­ag­ing 84 miles daily.

ASD col­lab­o­rat­ed with RFTA, the region’s trans­porta­tion author­i­ty, to learn more about its Bat­tery Elec­tric Bus Pilot Project and its expe­ri­ence deploy­ing eight elec­tric tran­sit bus­es (read more about the pilot project here). The school dis­trict also worked close­ly with Holy Cross Ener­gy, the region’s elec­tric coop­er­a­tive, to deploy its four Lev­el 3 charg­ers. These four 60-kW charg­ers come with vehi­cle-to-grid capa­bil­i­ties – an avenue ASD looks to explore fur­ther in con­junc­tion with Holy Cross Energy.

Outputs and Outcomes

ESBs offer sev­er­al advan­tages over tra­di­tion­al diesel bus­es, includ­ing low­er green­house gas emis­sions, reduced noise pol­lu­tion, and decreased oper­at­ing costs. The adop­tion of ESBs also sup­ports the broad­er efforts to improve air qual­i­ty in the region and to bol­ster grid resiliency.

In addi­tion to the envi­ron­men­tal and eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits, ESBs can pro­vide edu­ca­tion­al ben­e­fits. Reghan Mahaf­fey, ASD’s Direc­tor of Trans­porta­tion, not­ed that the kids love the new bus­es. The ESBs can be edu­ca­tion­al tools for stu­dents to learn more about clean ener­gy tech­nolo­gies or enhance their inter­est in STEM fields. Reghan also men­tioned that with the ESBs being much qui­eter than tra­di­tion­al diesel bus­es, it has been eas­i­er for dri­vers and atten­dants to mon­i­tor stu­dent behavior.

Best Practices & Lessons Learned

The dis­trict empha­sized the sig­nif­i­cance of col­lab­o­rat­ing close­ly with key stake­hold­ers to ensure a com­pre­hen­sive approach to sus­tain­able trans­porta­tion. In addi­tion to fos­ter­ing these col­lab­o­ra­tions, the dis­trict focused on devel­op­ing a robust plan for charg­ing infra­struc­ture, con­sid­er­ing the spe­cif­ic needs of dif­fer­ent school routes and loca­tions. These dis­cus­sions were piv­otal in address­ing essen­tial aspects such as project costs, explor­ing avail­able fund­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties, eval­u­at­ing vehi­cle and charg­er options, and accom­mo­dat­ing spe­cif­ic park­ing requirements.

Giv­en that ASD’s bus­es are rel­a­tive­ly new, the dis­trict antic­i­pates gain­ing invalu­able insights from oper­at­ing these bus­es over an entire school year. This expe­ri­ence will not only pro­vide essen­tial data on ener­gy con­sump­tion and oper­a­tional effi­cien­cy but also inform future deci­sions, con­tribut­ing to a clean­er and more stream­lined trans­porta­tion sys­tem for the ben­e­fit of both stu­dents and the community.

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