What to Know Before Buying an Electric Bus

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Electric vehicles are no longer a thing of the future and now extend to buses and school buses. Adding an electric bus to your fleet of vehicles comes with numerous benefits, such as saving on maintenance and combating air pollution. 

But purchasing an electric bus is a big decision that comes with a lot of implications. Blue Bird — the first to market electric school buses in 1994 — knows this, and as a Blue Bird dealer, so do the professionals at Gregory Poole. This guide will take you through everything you need to know before purchasing an electric bus.

How Do Electric Buses Work?

An electric bus is a type of electric vehicle (EV), which means it is fueled by electricity instead of gasoline or diesel. They do not combine electricity with a combustion engine like hybrid cars do. 

Electric buses draw electricity from the power grid and store it in a large rechargeable battery. The battery then powers the EV motor so it performs like a regular vehicle. There aren’t significant differences in operation between EVs and traditional vehicles — the biggest difference is in the charging/refueling methods. 

Factors to Consider Before Purchasing an Electric Bus

If you are interested in reducing your carbon footprint by adding electric buses to your fleet of vehicles, there are some factors you’ll want to consider. Before investing in one or more electric buses, consider the following:

The World Is Trending Toward EVs

Electric vehicles are the cars of the future — Tesla has reached massive success, hybrid vehicles are on the rise in the streets and General Motors plans to sell only EVs by 2035. The EV craze extends to the bus market too. In fact, the U.S. electric bus market is projected to reach $1.95 billion by 2024.

Adding electric buses to your fleet might seem like a risk considering many are still wary of upfront costs and charging requirements, but it’s becoming clear that EVs are making their way to the mainstream. 

EVs Help Combat Climate Change

Tailpipe emissions are a major contributor to climate change and air pollution. Electric buses do not produce any emissions, making them a much more environmentally friendly option for your fleet. The lack of emissions produced also makes the buses safer for people to stand near. Diesel exhaust fumes are harmful when breathed in, especially for children. Although it’s probably the most well-known benefit of EVs, their environmental friendliness should not be forgotten!

Maintenance Needs Differ From Conventional Vehicles 

When purchasing an EV, you should also be aware that maintenance needs will differ from the vehicles in your existing fuel-powered fleet. All in all, EVs require fewer maintenance needs. 

With an electric bus, you can forget about scheduling engine oil, air filter and transmission changes. You also won’t need to replace coils or spark plugs. Requiring less maintenance will help save you money in the long run. 

Upfront Costs Might Be Higher 

The upfront cost of electric buses and EVs is no secret. The initial investment is typically higher than with conventional vehicles, but you can also offset the costs with tax breaks, government subsidies and grants supplied by your power supply company. These financial incentives can help make the sticker cost of an electric bus seem more reasonable while you wait for the economic benefits of long-term ownership to start. 

You’ll Need a Place to Charge

Many electric bus owners might forget they’ll need a place to charge their EVs. Electric buses can attach to Level 1 or Level 2 chargers via an SAE J1772 connection. Level 2 chargers are generally preferred since they can charge the vehicle faster. 

Deciding to use a public charging station or purchase your own will depend on your situation. You could likely take advantage of public charging stations if you only want to own one electric bus. If you want multiple, investing in your own charging station(s) might be more beneficial. When making the choice between purchasing charging stations and using public ones, consider these factors:

  • How often you’ll need to charge: The number of miles your bus can travel depends on the bus and its battery density. Other factors at play include terrain and idle time. Blue Bird’s electric buses can travel 120 miles on a single charge. With this knowledge in mind, drivers should never be in a position where they become stranded without charging ability. 
  • Available public charging stations: If there are several public charging stations within your general area, you have more options than if there is only one of a few at your disposal.

Pros and Cons of Buying an Electric Bus

Consider the following advantages and disadvantages of adding an electric bus to your fleet. 

Pros of Buying an Electric Bus

As we’ve seen, purchasing an electric bus for your fleet has many benefits. Some more electric bus advantages include:

  • Fun to drive: There isn’t really a difference between driving a fuel-powered car and an EV, but many drivers think they’re much more fun — and fast — to drive!
  • Quiet operation: Electric buses are quieter than traditional vehicles since they don’t use a combustion engine. If you own a fleet of school buses, this might be especially beneficial since drivers will be able to hear what goes on behind them better.
  • Affordability after purchase: Though the upfront cost of an electric bus can be somewhat steep, purchasing one can save you money on maintenance costs over time. These savings might amount to as much as $39,000 annually

Cons of Buying an Electric Bus

Despite all the positives associated with EVs, there are still some cons. Some of the disadvantages of electric buses include:

  • Rotating the fleet: If you want to own more than one EV, you’ll need to create a strategy that lets some buses remain operational while the others charge. Rotating your fleet ensures you always have the buses available when you need them. It will be easier if you have your own charging station. 
  • Upfront costs: As mentioned, upfront costs of EVs are high, which initially turns off many fleet owners. 
  • Setting aside time for charging: The time it takes for an electric bus to charge depends on the type of charger and the bus. Blue Bird electric buses typically charge in 8 hours

Interested in Going Electric? Contact Gregory Poole.

If you’re ready to take the next steps toward an electric-powered fleet, Gregory Poole can help. For more information about our lines of electric school buses, contact us today