January 22, 2021
With the transition to electric vehicles becoming widely recognized as one of the most important initiatives to combat climate change, SCP sponsored a school bus electrification study for the Mendocino Unified School District (MUSD) and the West County Transit Agency (WCTA), which provide transportation for hundreds of public-school students in our service territory.
Knowing that the switch to battery electric buses (BEBs) would not happen overnight, these studies were intended to serve as a roadmap forward for both agencies to understand the challenges and opportunities of electrifying their vehicle fleets, and what infrastructure upgrades would be needed in the future.
To conduct the study, SCP selected the Cadmus Group, LLC, an energy and environmental consulting firm with extensive transportation electrification experience.
The scope of the study involved assessing each bus yard’s suitability for electric vehicle (EV) charging, solar photovoltaic (PV) potential, current bus routes and fleet characteristics, existing infrastructure, utility distribution system capacity, ongoing priorities and constraints, and the impacts of weather throughout the year.
Each agency was given a report outlining short and long-term recommendations for achieving fleet electrification. Below are some of the key findings:
For the West County Transit Agency –
- The existing electric grid infrastructure for WCTA’s main bus yard may already be capable of supporting over 80 BEB chargers; WCTA’s new parking area appears to have the capacity for at least 5 BEB chargers.
- There is at least one commercially available Type A BEB model currently on the market that can meet WCTA’s energy needs for four out of the six bus routes selected for analysis.
- The two WCTA bus routes that cannot be served by Type A BEBs currently on the market operate over 140 miles per day. However, the BEB market is constantly evolving and WCTA can and should discuss their route requirements and interest in higher range with manufacturers.
- WCTA’s main bus yard and new parking area have a total solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity that could offset the annual energy consumption of 9 BEBs.
For the Mendocino Unified School District –
- MUSD already has plans to purchase one eLion BEB and install a single-port charging station at their bus yard.
- There are commercially available high-range BEB models on the market today that can meet MUSD’s energy needs for all five routes.
- While adding a BEB to MUSD’s fleet would increase the average monthly electricity bill by approximately $480 per vehicle, MUSD could save approximately $270 per route per month in net fuel costs.
A mutual recommendation for both agencies was to select routes with a maximum total daily mileage of 100 miles and at least four hours at the yard between morning and afternoon shifts for their first phase of electrification.
SCP is committed to facilitating WCTA’s and MUSD’s transition to BEBs and looks forward to serving as a resource for the two agencies. Both WCTA and MUSD plan to present these reports to their respective Boards for discussion and next steps early this year.
For more on school bus electrification efforts, check out the California Energy Commission’s School Bus Replacement Program or the Economics of Education Review’s article “School bus emissions, student health, and academic performance.”