Electric school bus on order for Kamloops school district

SD73 getting an e-bus

Kamloops will be one of the first B.C. cities to see an electric school bus on its streets, likely within the school year.

The Kamloops-Thompson School District is one of 13 districts participating in the provincial Clean BC Go Electric School Bus Program and has ordered an electric bus from a factory in Tulsa, Oklahoma, according to SD73's manager of transportation, Sherry Kristjanson.

"It’s really exciting," she tells Castanet. "To be able to bring them to B.C. is really quite incredible."

Kristjanson says Kamloops should be among the very first municipalities to get an electric school bus, as the district was quick to order one once the program was approved. When exactly it'll arrive is unclear.

It's expected to arrive sometime in February or March 2021; training on the new vehicle will follow. However, the only people who can train locals are based in the U.S. and COVID-19 travel restrictions could delay them.

Funding for the new bus is primarily coming from two provincial ministries: education and natural resources. Typical diesel busses cost more than $140,000 brand new, significantly less than the $360,000 for an electric bus. That being said, fuel and maintenance costs are lower for electric vehicles. The district will also cover a small amount of the new vehicle's costs. A charging station for the bus will also be covered by the province.

As electric busses become more common, Kristjanson says the cost of them will come down. She notes SD73 is looking at adding more to their fleet over time.

For students and people on the roads of Kamloops, the e-bus won't look significantly different from the conventional school busses around town. It'll be big and yellow, with a hood and all the usual markings. However, under the hood it'll look totally different. It'll sound different too, with a bit of a hum instead of the chugging of a diesel engine.

Kristjanson adds that a driver who is willing to take on the challenge of learning the new bus system has already been selected.

The district staffer expects it'll be used on the North Shore initially, as SD73 gets to know the bus better.

Similar busses are being used in California, so the model is yet to be tested with regular use in B.C.'s climate.

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