April 12, 2021
Beginning today, some students in the Rose Park area will be traveling to and from the classroom in new electric buses. The electric buses replace diesel buses, and were chosen to operate in areas with higher pollution levels. The buses will be the first of their kind in Utah, thanks to a partnership between Salt Lake City School District (SLCSD) and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
Ken Martinez, Interim Transportation Supervisor for SLCSD, says the District took the plunge into the new technology because of grants DEQ offers. “Salt Lake City School District has been looking into all available alternative fuel school buses for several years,” Martinez said, “but when we were made aware of the grants available through DEQ, it gave us a shot of motivation to move forward with the electric buses.” The new buses are partially funded through the DEQ’s Volkswagen Settlement program and Utah Clean Diesel Program (UCDP).
Martinez has watched costs for full-size electric buses drop from $550,000 in 2017 to $400,000 six months ago, with current costs being close to $380,000. He attributes the fall in prices to the cost of batteries going down and more electric buses being sold nationwide. SLCSD opted to try the new technology for their smaller buses used to transport special education students on shorter routes to test the range of the battery. Martinez says that the power of the new electric buses along with their stop-and-go capabilities are ideal for the steep routes behind the Capitol. “When we first got bids for the smaller buses 14 months ago, the costs were $270,000, but the costs have dropped to $233,000, and this was during the COVID-19 pandemic, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the industry changes in the next year,” Martinez said.
SLCSD has 100 buses in their fleet and intend to convert 20-25% of their buses to electric, and eventually hope to convert 70-75% to electric. The District is updating their bus depot to accommodate charging stations for the new electric buses, and charging stations will be housed under canopies equipped with solar panels that may eventually be used to provide part of the power to the buses.
About Clean Diesel Grants
In a vehicle-to-vehicle comparison, heavy-duty buses and trucks emit significantly more emissions compared to passenger cars and trucks. Electric buses provide a 100 percent reduction of tailpipe emissions which will improve air quality and protect the health of students.
DEQ currently has nearly $1.3 million in grant funding available to help school districts to replace diesel with electric.
- Grants cover 45% of the cost for the new electric bus and charging infrastructure.
- Old buses must be permanently disabled.
- Priority is given to school districts along the Wasatch Front, an area that experiences frequent air quality challenges.
- New allowances in the program enable any diesel school bus, regardless of age, to participate as long as the bus is fully operational, has three years left in its life, travels a minimum of 7,000 miles annually, and is replaced with an all-electric bus.
Electric buses are the future in student transportation, and DEQ wants to help school districts make the transition. For more information visit cleandiesel.utah.gov.