The first electric school buses

For alternatively fueled vehicles, there’s always been a strong argument that they make sense in fleet situations where the vehicles can be returned each evening to a centralized station. That has certainly been the case with natural gas fueled vehicles or even fuel cells where there’s effectively zero fueling infrastructure so you need to have the fleet in one place each day for simple refueling.

And while the fueling infrastructure for electric vehicles gets better everywhere, it’s still not easy to find a public charge. With that in mind we’ve seen in the last few months the first ever electric school buses, introduced at a central California school district. The developers of the bus are Trans Tech and Motiv Power Systems.

The buses are understandably very expensive, though the developers are making the total cost of ownership argument.

ThinkProgress reports:

While the electric buses cost around twice as much as similar gas buses, Jim Castelaz, founder and CEO of Motiv Power Systems, said that was balanced by fuel and maintenance costs. It costs “1/8 as much to fuel and 1/3 as much to maintain,” he said. “In the life of a school bus, 2-3 times the cost of the vehicle is spent on fuel and maintenance.”

The buses have ranges of either 80 or 100 miles, which strikes me as just enough range for a lengthy morning and afternoon route in a major metropolitan city like Los Angeles or Houston. Though if they could be charged mid-day that would change the calculus.

Still the long term maintenance arguments could become compelling, particularly in fleet vehicles where it’s easier to track long term costs of maintenance and make the case that the up front costs will be somewhat paid back over time. The total cost of ownership arguments remain difficult sells in the consumer market where people are generally only sensitive to up front cost.