School District 69 (Qualicum) officials as they present the district’s first fully electric bus. From left: Chris Dempster, general manager of operations and maintenance; Vivian Collyer, director of instruction; Julie Austin, vice-chairperson for the of board trustees; Eve Flynn, chairperson for the board trustees; and superintendent Dr. Keven Elder. (Mandy Moraes photo)

School District 69 (Qualicum) officials as they present the district’s first fully electric bus. From left: Chris Dempster, general manager of operations and maintenance; Vivian Collyer, director of instruction; Julie Austin, vice-chairperson for the of board trustees; Eve Flynn, chairperson for the board trustees; and superintendent Dr. Keven Elder. (Mandy Moraes photo)

School District 69 (Qualicum) receives first fully electric bus

Bus will hit the streets before the end of June, running one of the district’s longest routes

School District 69’s (Qualicum) new fully electrical school bus brings the district one step closer to their goal of carbon neutrality.

The e-bus arrived on Thursday, May 20, and brings the fleet total up to 28 buses. It will run one of the longest routes in the district at 619 kilometres weekly, to reduce as much greenhouse gas as possible, and can travel up to 200 kilometres on a single overnight charge.

The district’s director of instruction, Vivian Collyer, said: “In the bigger picture, our board has a climate action task force, and they’re creating a district plan – this is one component of that plan to become carbon neutral.”

Chris Dempster, the district’s general manager of operations and maintenance, said the intention going forward will to be replace each diesel bus with a new e-bus as they go down.

“We hope the government grants continue to support that, but even if not, it’s a high priority,” said superintendent Dr. Keven Elder.

Dempster pointed out the district’s bus yard on Springhill Road has a charging station that could facilitate up to 14 busses.

The e-bus in is part of a larger provincial movement to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, and was purchased through the provincial Bus Acquisition Program mid-2020.

The price of a typical diesel engine school bus costs approximately $140,000, said Dempster. While this specific e-bus model is ‘about three times the cost’ of a diesel engine, with help from the acquisition program, the district only had to put forth $65,000.

READ MORE: Electric bus on trial run serving Victoria-to-Nanaimo route

“We’re going to be saving about $7,900 a year in fuel costs. And then with maintenance costs, these take about 20 per cent of the maintenance of a regular bus. We should technically be saving about $10,000 a year in maintenance and fuel,” said Dempster.

“And it has that new bus smell inside” said Eve Flynn, chair for the district’s board of trustees, with a chuckle.

As with their diesel buses, the e-bus will have three interior cameras located at the front, centre and back of the bus. Like the others in the fleet, it will have seatbelts for only the first two seats since it’s not required to have them for every single seat, said Dempster.

Unique to the e-bus is its external speaker which emits a specific pitch frequency while the bus is in motion. Dempster said that with this particular model, the slower the bus goes, the quieter the speaker becomes, where at 30 km/h it shuts off completely. The pitch acts as a warning feature so other drivers and pedestrians on the road can hear it.

Otherwise, without the external speaker, the bus is nearly completely silent.

Under normal circumstances it can carry 76 students when completely full, but while COVID-19 social distancing protocols are in place, it will only carry 48 students at this time.

Once the driver has been fully trained, Dempster said it’s a matter of licensing and inspection for Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement. After that, the plan is to have the e-bus hit the streets before the end of June.

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