MOUNT DESERT, Maine — In September of 2021, Mount Desert Island High School led the state as the first school to make the switch to electric school buses, thanks to a grant from the Volkswagen Emissions Fraud Settlement.
After one year, the school shares its opinions on how the ride has been. Operations Manager for the school, Eric Hann, says the experience has been smooth, despite a learning curve and the occasional range anxiety.
"There are some hiccups, we had some hiccups in the beginning but we're running very smooth now," Hann said.
Initially, the school faced some repairs for the bus and the realization that long field trips were not viable with the electric buses due to the restriction of miles on a single charge and lack of charging stations.
However, other positives have emerged. According to an analysis done by the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, the Lion electric bus saved over 30,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions in less than a year and ranked three times as efficient as its diesel-engine counterpart.
"We've saved twenty-four hundred gallons of diesel fuel and the associated carbon emissions and my lungs," bus driver Andrew Keblinsky said. "So I like it. I like that bus."
Keblinsky has been driving diesel buses for fourteen years, and now drives electric. With his route, which he says can be rough during the winter months, he can answer the question many are wondering about:
"[If] Electric bus going to perform as well, traction wise and braking wise as bus two, which was a brand new Thomas bus, and yeah, it does," Keblinsky said.
Others are eyeing the success, with a handful of schools reaching out to MDI for advice on making the switch, according to Hann. Just this past week, Camden-Rockport schools debuted its electric school bus, ready to hit the road in a few days.
"Add into it the savings of about one hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars over the life of a bus in terms of energy and maintenance. From an accounting standpoint, that's just a no-brainer," Camden-Rockport schools business manager Pete Orne affirmed.
Mount Desert Island High School is already taking the steps to acquire six more electric buses to its fleet through the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
"I think it's the way to go. I was always skeptical of electric vehicles, but I think it's awesome," Keblinsky stated.