SD20 now has an electric bus. Photo: Submitted

SD20 now has an electric bus. Photo: Submitted

Kootenay-Columbia School District 20 adds electric bus to fleet

Bus will be incorporated into Castlegar route for next school year

Kootenay Columbia School District 20 has welcomed its first electric bus to the district fleet.

The new bus has been going through some trial runs this week and SD20 drivers are learning how to operate it. The district expects to have it fully integrated into a Castlegar-area route for the beginning of the next school year.

Charging infrastructure has been installed at the SD20 maintenance facility in Castlegar where the bus will be charged each night.

The new bus can go about 220 kilometres on a full charge. It has regenerative brakes, so that range can be extended depending on how much energy is recaptured.

The new bus is much quieter than its diesel counterparts, so you may not even notice it as it approaches. Because it is so quiet, the bus has been equipped with a noise maker feature that gives off a subtle engine noise at slower speeds to alert people that there is a vehicle nearby.

Brian Witherspoon has been driving the bus around the area to test its features and its performance. He says another thing that is noticeable in the electric bus is the lack of vibrations. Without an engine, the ride is much smoother.

He says the regenerative braking takes some getting used to, but that once you have it figured out it is actually easier to drive and rather enjoyable.

The district expects to see some major operational savings through the new bus.

Fuel to take a diesel bus 220 km costs about $250. The electric bus can go the same distance on just $50 worth of electricity.

The bus will also require less maintenance for things like oil changes and brake replacement, saving as much as $10,000 over its lifespan.

“Operational savings means more money in the classroom, cleaner air for students to breath while in and around the bus, as well reduced greenhouse gas emissions — building a cleaner, healthier future for our students,” said SD20’s transportation manager Lisa Philips.

Compared to a diesel bus, the electric one saves 17 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

Funding help for the bus has come from the B.C. Ministry of Education and Clean B.C.

SD20 has now ordered two more electric buses and expects to be running them by January 2022.

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