Minnesota schools testing electric buses find benefits and barriers

Electric School Bus and Educator.
Morris is one of the first schools in Minnesota to add electric school buses to its fleet. Superintendent Shane Monson said because of a lack of charging infrastructure, and the high purchase price for electric buses, the district has no immediate plans to add more of the vehicles. Dan Gunderson | MPR News

By: Dan Gunderson

Morris Area Schools jumped on the electric school bus early. They were among the first schools to apply for an electric school bus grant program run by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in 2020.

Superintendent Shane Monson is generally pleased with the performance of the two electric buses used on daily routes.

“Overall, I think the experience has been good,” said Monson. “We’ve learned some things along the way, and been able to provide feedback.”

The fuel savings are a benefit, the buses are not as noisy, and they align with the community wide focus on clean energy.

“But when you’re the first one out on an adventure of sorts like this, you get to deal with the bumps in the road as well,” said Monson.

The buses require additional driver training because the electric vehicles accelerate and brake differently from a bus with an internal combustion engine. The electric buses can’t be used on out of town trips for extra-curricular activities because of limited charging options in rural areas, said Monson.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency are providing funding to encourage schools to transition from diesel to electric buses.

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