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Triad Prepares For Next Round Of Electric School Buses

By Stephanie Malench

The Triad School board announced last month that they have been selected to receive $791,145 for the purchase of another 3 electric buses. The district already has three type C buses which hold 47 passengers each, two of which are wheelchair accessible. With this round of funding, the district is planning on purchasing full size (72 passengers) buses.

The buses are funded through the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund, which was created in 2017 between the United States Government and Volkswagen Corporation to eliminate the impacts of diesel vehicles and engines on the environment. The money came from fines the automotive manufacturer had to pay the Environmental Protection Agency and divided up between the each of the states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and federally recognized Indian tribes from settlement money after the car manufacturer overestimated the mileage per gallon on their cars.

Each state’s allocation was based on the number of registered affected Volkswagen vehicles in that state. Ten percent of each state’s allocations was for school districts across the state to apply for to remove diesel buses from their fleet.

In this round, $4.2 million in Illinois allotment of the settlement is going to school districts to provide eco-friendly buses to replace diesel buses in the fleet. In the southern half of the state, additional to the three buses Triad received through the fund, the Collinsville Unit 10 and Edwardsville District 7 school districts each received one bus.

The districts selected to receive electric buses are reimbursed for the cost of each bus after showing proof to the IEPA that a diesel bus has been scrapped for recycling. The school district also gets to keep the money from recycling the metal. Reimbursement takes approximately one month from the time the required paperwork is submitted.

Triad’s first round of buses hit the street at the beginning of January and use approximately half a charge for each route. All buses in commission for the district runs two routes twice a day, an elementary school route and a secondary bus route. It takes eight hours for a bus to charge fully from empty, but each bus is able to receive 80% battery charge in four hours. The buses are equipped with special software to help track the savings over using a traditional diesel or gas bus.

The buses charge at the Creekside parking lot by the solar farm next to C.A. Henning school on Highway 40. The lot currently contains three charging stations and will receive three more. Triad is working with three districts in the Chicago area that were awarded a total of seven buses to do a group bid, bringing the cost down for each district.

Like all major purchases made by the district, bus manufacturers will have to bid on getting the contract to provide the district with the buses. One of the manufacturers, Lion, is build a 900,000 square foot facility in Joliet near Chicago to produce 20,000 electric buses and medium and heavy-duty trucks per year. The company said it expected the facility to come online in the second half of 2022.

Once the buses are delivered from the manufacturer later this year, the buses have to be inspected by the Illinois Department of Transportation and labeled with special stickers letting first responders know where the charging port is on each bus and where the battery is located so the buses can safely be turned off in the event of an accident.

A long-term goal for Triad is to be able to put the energy from the buses back on the grid for use within the district or by selling credits.

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