COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus' Zenith Academy is one of the first to take advantage of grants through AEP Ohio and the Ohio EPA to bring an electric bus into their ranks.
“There's not much of a difference between this bus and our diesel bus,” said Steve Thompson, an Electric Vehicle Specialist at Thomas Built Buses by Ohio CAT, a nationwide manufacturer of school buses.
Thompson said the the new generation of electric school buses are built to make tomorrow cleaner, greener and brighter.
“Every morning 20 million kids get on a bus, and over the course of a year, those buses travel four billion miles," said Thompson. "Cleaning up the air is a main priority. Everyone remembers the diesel fumes of a school bus and that's completely eliminated with these electric buses."
Veteran bus driver Tanika Smith said from operating the bus to charging up, it's been both a smooth transition and pleasant experience.
“Because the bus is so quiet, you barely know it's on. I think it gives the kids a sense of a friendly environment and they want to keep the bus clean,” said Smith.
Although the new EV school buses cost three times as much as diesel, upwards of $300,000, Thompson said there is substantial savings with going electric over diesel.
“Obviously your electricity bill will go up with charging a bus, but it's going to save you exponentially over the life of a bus," Thompson said. "Oil changes, the braking, and overall maintenance, there's so much less on an electric school bus."
Thompson estimates Zenith Academy will save at least $5,000 this year on fuel alone for their new electric bus.
Thompson said no other school districts in Ohio are currently using electric school buses, but he said with the available EPA and AEP funding, he expects that to change.
Thompson said the EPA funding application that just closed covers $375,000 per EV bus and $20,000 toward infrastructure per bus.