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Electric Bus Tours, Test Drives Win Converts at Alexandria School District

One bus driver for Alexandria Central School District in New York said they would retire before they would ever drive an electric bus, but they changed their mind after taking it for a test drive.

An electric school bus sitting in a garage
(TNS) — About two dozen people got an up-close look at the Alexandria Central School District's new electric school buses Monday as part of a Clean Energy Conference.

The conference was held by the Adirondack North Country Association, a nonprofit that uses "innovative strategies for food systems, clean energy, small businesses, and equity and inclusion," according to the ANCA website.

Delmar E. Lambert, the transportation supervisor for Alexandria Central, said he was asked to present the buses and explain how they work.

The district has two electric buses in rotation.

"At first, it's like new technology of any kind. You're going to hit a couple snags," he said. "To be honest with you, it wasn't much on the electrical side. We had some faulty parts for our air-brake system."

The district's garage has two mid-level chargers installed and it takes about six hours for the buses to go from 0 percent to 100 percent.

Lambert said both buses can go two full days, or four runs, without charging if need be.

One complaint he said he has heard is that people are worried the buses could burst into flames when being used.

"There are so many safety features on this bus that it's just about next to impossible to happen," Lembert said.

Fires have happened in electric vehicles, Lambert said, but 98 percent of those were from someone messing with the battery.

The total cost of the bus was $466,000. With grants, the school district was only on the hook for about $90,000, which is cheaper than purchasing a new gas-powered bus that could cost between $200,000 and $220,000.

All of the bus drivers in the district drove the bus before it went on the road. One driver said before driving that they did not want to drive and would retire before they would ever drive an electric bus. After taking it for a test drive, Lambert said they changed their mind.

Bluebird, the bus manufacturer, provided everyone with training, including first responders.

Lambert said the bus is also able to be heated in extreme cold temperatures, and is also equipped with an air conditioner.

"I was very skeptical, I'll be honest with you, when this first started. I'm not a 100 percent go-electric — I think it's a good idea, but at first I didn't think the technology was there. But as we're getting into it, you see the technology moving and moving," he said.

In the cold, the battery does lose a little power, but Lambert isn't too concerned about that.

If the school district budget passes today's vote, Alexandria Central will be looking to purchase two more electric buses.

Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul has mandated that all new buses sold in the state be zero-emission by 2027, and all buses on the road be zero-emission by 2035.

There are also two other chargers that the district can use that aren't at its garage.

Maintenance costs are down, with savings from oil and grants available for infrastructure.

Lambert said National Grid paid for costs to upgrade nearby poles and other electrical equipment up to the building for free.

Tara Donadio, who is the assistant director of sustainability for the Capitol District Regional Planning Commission in Albany, said she was impressed with the presentation as this was her first time seeing an electric school bus.

"The driver seems very impressed with the technology and I'm excited to take a ride on it," she said.

She said she will pass along her impressions of the bus to school districts in her area.

©2024 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.