The Ukiah Unified School District already has two all-electric school buses, and a third is being delivered this month. The initial three buses are paid for by a $1,215,000 grant UUSD was awarded through a statewide Rural School Bus Pilot Project in 2017.
The Rural School Bus Pilot Project is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health — particularly in disadvantaged communities. The California Air Resources Board selected the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District to administer the statewide pilot project, the goal of which is to accelerate the turnover of California school bus fleets to lower carbon transportation choices, especially in rural school districts that have smaller budgets and less access to other funding sources.
In addition to the $1.2 million grant, UUSD now has plans to add three more electric buses as a result of a grant from the California Energy Commission. The California Energy Commission’s School Bus Replacement Program awarded $1,131,742 to Ukiah Unified School District over the summer to replace three more diesel buses with electric buses. The program is helping schools throughout the state transition from old, polluting diesel school buses to zero- or low-emissions vehicles, improving children’s health by limiting their exposure to transportation-related air pollution and building the green economy.
Battery technology is improving at a fast rate, and with each new generation of electric buses comes higher ranges. For now, the electric buses in Ukiah are used only on select routes around the district. Most field trips and sporting events are out of the range of current electric bus technology. The larger Type C electric bus can travel about 75 miles on a single charge and the smaller Type A electric bus has a range of 100 miles.
Rural school districts generally have older bus fleets, and at the same time, don’t have the opportunity or ability to receive funding for replacements. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than half of today’s school buses in the United States have been in service for over a decade. These older buses emit more pollution than modern buses and replacing them helps student’s health and our environment.
“Zero-emission school buses mean cleaner air for children, whose lungs are still developing, and cleaner air for all of us,” said Jessica Johnson, a supervisor for CARB’s Mobile Source Control Division. “These electric buses not only protect public health, but they save school districts money at the pump, too.”
Besides the vast environmental benefits, electric buses offer other advantages, including freedom from ever-climbing fuel prices, and lower maintenance costs. They have fewer parts than conventional buses, leading to fewer breakdowns.
Don’t forget about noise pollution. Electric buses provide a more tranquil ride for the students, and they won’t wake up the neighborhood either. Electric buses are so quiet they are equipped with an external speaker system that plays music when traveling at slower speeds to alert pedestrians of their presence.
“We are thrilled to add these energy-efficient vehicles to our fleet and feel great that we are improving our impact on the environment. These buses use no fuel, and they need far less maintenance than a traditional bus! This not only improves air quality for our kids and the community, but it also saves taxpayer dollars,” said Deb Kubin, UUSD Superintendent.
For more information about Ukiah Unified School District or their electric busses, contact Doug Shald, UUSD Communications and Community Engagement Officer, at 707.472.5005 or firstname.lastname@example.org.