Garretson School District hails electric buses as 'safer' mode of transportation
Garretson School District’s three electric buses are running strong despite the harsh winter temperatures.
With a mix of winter weather and severe cold, the district’s choice to switch to electric buses last fall has received some scrutiny.
Officials in the district, however, said the buses have become a safer mode of transportation.
Tom Godbee has been a bus driver for the district for eight years. He said his electric bus has actually done better in winter.
“I’ve driven a diesel bus, a propane bus, and now electrical bus. And as far as handling and more control — because I’ve got weight, there’s four batteries underneath the bus here that weigh 400 pounds a piece — so I’ve got 1,600 pounds of weight from the front seat to the wheel well. In the other buses, all the weight was in the front. I’ve got more control, and better traction, and they handle better,” said Godbee.
Critics of electric vehicles point to the decline in battery power in cold temperatures.
Guy Johnson is the Superintendent of Garretson School District. He said the buses have operated exactly as described by the manufacture.
“So we did see, driving in the teens below zero last week, my understanding is that we got a warning signal that popped up that said batteries where at 85 percent of power after they were out in that cold. But the manufacturer told us to expect that it would drop to 80 or 85 percent. So it was completely within the parameters we were expecting,” said Johnson.
He said the district’s longest route is about 47 miles. In perfect conditions the buses can travel about 125 miles on a full charge. This makes the power lost to cold temperatures irrelevant to the buses' ability to get children to and from school.
At the end of each route, the buses park at the “bus barn” where they are plugged in to charge for the next day. Johnson said having individual charging stations for each bus has been a huge benefit.
The grant money for the buses and charging stations stem from the federal government’s Clean School Bus Program. The program has provided buses to six school districts in the state
Ultimately, Johnson said the switch to electric buses has provided a safer mode of transportation for the district.