Boulder Valley School District Adds an Electric Bus to Its Fleet

Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) has recently added its first electric school bus to its fleet. We spoke with Landon Hillard, Safe Routes to School Co-Coordinator, and Kevin Cole, BVSD Fleet Manager, about this decision and what this means for the future of the school district. 

The decision to add an electric school bus has been in discussion for several years. Boulder Valley School District was awarded the Alternative Fuels Colorado grant in 2019 and used the funds to purchase a Blue Bird Vision Electric Bus. However, the original first-generation bus had some drawbacks and the school district decided to wait until a newer Blue Bird bus was available. Fast forward to 2021, and the current bus they have has a 100-mile range and special insulation that allows for outdoor charging. 

BVSD chose to go electric because of the environmental and financial benefits. They are conscious of the fact that transportation is responsible for the largest share of Colorado’s greenhouse gases, and switching to emissions-free transportation is an environmentally friendly solution.  The Blue Bird bus is 100% electric and will bring cleaner air to schoolchildren, parents, staff, and the surrounding community. BVSD also expects to save money in the long run – while the initial cost of the electric bus was higher, long-term savings are greatly enhanced due to lower maintenance and operating costs and cheaper electricity as compared to gas prices. The reduced cost per mile of using an electric school bus was a big factor in BVSD’s decision and they will be keeping track of the bus’ costs and savings over time to help guide their judgement on continuing to add electric buses to their fleet. 

At the time of our conversation, the electric school bus was planned to go on its first route on March 17, 2021. “The drivers and mechanics expressed excitement at having an electric bus to drive and work on in the fleet”, Kevin said. The bus is super quiet and while it doesn’t look any different than a gas-powered school bus, BVSD plans to wrap it with EV branding to bring awareness to the emissions-free vehicle. The school district also plans to showcase the bus at various schools and host educational sessions and focus groups with high school students in the coming months.

BVSD will continue working on ways to reduce vehicle emissions by the fleet and in the community. This work is part of the Sustainability Management System, BVSD’s plan to “demonstrate leadership in sustainable transportation by reducing its collective vehicle emissions, decreasing school zone traffic congestion, increasing fleet operational efficiencies, and choosing safe and healthy transportation options to access schools and related activities.” The transportation emphasis in this plan includes electric vehicle charging infrastructure which is accessible to both staff and the community. Chargers, funded by the Charge Ahead Colorado grant, were installed 5 years ago across BVSD schools and are available for public use. With approximately 50+ sites and 108 charging plugs across the district, these stations incentivize workplace charging and EV adoption for employees, parents, and others.