School buses have long been a huge financial burden on local governments, with huge initial costs, as well as ongoing maintenance and fueling expenses. Electric school buses could drastically cut into those maintenance and fuel costs however, with Trans Tech introducing a 32-passenger bus that it claims can save school districts up to $11,000 a year.
Trans Tech and Motiv Power Systems paired on a Ford E450-based 32-passenger (or 24 passenger and one wheelchair) short bus called the SST-e, powered by either four or five battery packs delivering between 80 and 100 miles of driving per day. With an average fuel economy of just 7 mpg, these short buses are still mega gas hogs, consuming as much as 16 gallons of fuel to go the same 100 miles. A fast-charging system can deliver a 50% charge in as little as an hour, though a fuel charge takes 8 hours to preserve battery life.
With fuel prices as outrageous as they are, it can cost $11,000 to keep just one of these buses running year round. But the SST-e costs literally pennies on the dollar to fill in comparison, and its maintenance costs are almost non-existent. While the initial cost is surely higher, many of these buses easily see a decade worth of service or more. That could amount to more than $100,000 in savings over the lifetime of just a single electric bus.
Now multiply that by a large municipal fleet, and you’re talking about some mega savings, more than justifying the initial cost. While trial runs are ongoing in Foster City, California, it will take a much larger city (think L.A. or New York) to really get these buses on the national radar. While L.A. is looking to China’s BYD to provide electric public transit buses, the electric school bus field is still wide open.
Who is going to corner that lucrative market first?