Riding into the future: Washington County Tenn. Schools prepare electric bus for upcoming academic year

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – This school year, some students will be riding in style on a new electric bus.

Washington County, Tennessee Schools is the first district in the state to obtain the first all-electric, battery-powered school bus. It was debuted back in early June and came with a cost of $220,000.

Thanks to a partnership between the Tennessee Valley Authority and Brightridge, the dream of obtaining this bus became a reality.

For Brightridge President and CEO, Jeff Dykes, this bus is not only a mode of transportation for students, but it’s the future.

“We had heard about that and we contacted the school system and said Brightridge and TVA would really like to be a part of this process, so for us, it was a natural fit, of course, selling electricity, but we also wanted to use it for some research and development,” said Dykes.

72 people, including the driver, can take a seat on this bus, which is a few more students than an average diesel-powered bus. Once the bus gets below 15 miles an hour, it generates a special noise so cars know it’s coming since it’s so quiet while running.

While the price tag may seem hefty, in the end, it will pay off even more through the money it saves while in service. According to Dykes, it will save about 3 tons of emissions.

Practice routes are already underway to get used to the handling of the bus as well as the route it will take on a day-to-day basis. The electric bus will be replacing bus 93 and assuming its route.

“We’ve mapped it out, we’re going to serve the students of the Jonesborough Schools and Grandview Elementary,” said Washington County TN Schools Chief Operations Officer, Jarrod Adams.

A 6-hour charge translates to 120 miles, and that’s the reason this group of students was chosen.

“We chose a bus that we knew would have about a 70 to 80 mile a day range, because the school bus does get about 120 miles a day on each charge, so we wanted to stay within that and still serve as many kids as we could,” said Adams.

Dykes said this one bus will help them evaluate what electric energy could mean for an entire fleet of buses.

“A lot of that will give us the opportunity to find out what would be the difference in this electric vehicle versus the amount of money you spend in maintenance, the amount of money you spend in gas and diesel fuel, and really start to evaluate where does that price measure between the two.

I think that we will see that there are savings that we don’t even think about that will show up during this pilot project,” said Dykes.

Adding another electric bus is certainly something Washington County schools want to do. District officials are already evaluating the funding options for one more, with eventual hopes to turn this entire fleet electric.

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