School buses have been making the lives of students convenient and easy since their invention. It is estimated that 24 million children travel on 454,000 school buses in the United States. School buses are approximated to cover four billion miles every year.
On average, students spend almost 3 billion hours on them. These long hours with large distances come at a cost of emitting 3,000 tons of cancer-causing soot and 95,000 tons of smog-causing compounds every year.
This has raised a need for electric school buses. Thomas Built Buses, a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks in North America, has been working on electric buses since the early 2000s. One of the company’s buses is the first electric school bus to function with students inside in the state of Alaska.
The bus ran through the roads even at -40 °F in the town of Tok, Alaska. This bus is Alaska’s first and, at the moment, only all-electric school bus, since October 2020. On one charge, the bus can cover 138 miles (222 km). On a daily basis, the vehicle can cover 30 miles (48 km).
Gerald “Stretch” Blackard, the owner of Tok Transportation, said “The bus has been performing well, and it has definitely lived up to expectations. In fact, it has exceeded my expectations in cold weather, which is often sub-zero temperatures. It has performed seamlessly, and the heating system, which also runs off electricity, works well to keep the bus warm,” in an interview with Thomas Built Buses.
Tok Transportation bought the bus for $50,000 while the bus is $400,000 in reality. The company got financial support from the Alaskan Energy Authority grant that covered $350,000 of the total amount in addition to paying for solar panels that charge the bus.
Blackard said that “We had a grant available for an electric school bus, so I wanted to give it a shot. An electric school bus ties into the sustainability efforts of some of our schools, plus, whoever heard of an electric school bus in Alaska? I have always had an interest in trying new things. When someone says something can’t be done, I always want to try it for myself.”