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Maine rolls out state's first electric school bus

The price tag for the electric school bus was about $350,000. 80% of it was paid by a grant from the Volkswagen Emissions Fraud Settlement.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — For a group of students in Bar Harbor, the ride to and from school has gone green.

Mount Desert Island High School has now added Maine's first electric school bus to its fleet.

The bus comes after the high school installed more than 1,000 solar panels a few years ago, becoming Maine's first school to run completely on renewable energy.

Bus driver Doug Van Gorder pushed for the 100% electric school bus, which is estimated to save the school about $5,000 a year in fuel costs.

"About two years ago, someone from 'a climate to thrive' asked if we would consider getting an electric school bus, I didn't even know that was a thing. So I looked into it and yeah it looked good, it made sense, except for the cost. You can buy four standard buses for the price of this bus, and so I kind of let it go, I knew that wouldn't fly with the budget," said Van Gorder.

That budget was saved by a $280,000 grant from the Volkswagen Emissions Fraud Settlement. Those dollars covered 80% of it, and the school paid for the rest.

The average price for an electric school busses is about $350,000.

The Volkswagen settlement funds grant for school districts to make earth-friendly changes to equipment and facilities.

"We thought it was a great idea, because of the energy and all that stuff and how much gas we use," said Eric Hann, operations manager at the high school.

"It plays very nicely with the rest of our ecological plan!" said Dawn Burgess, sustainability coordinator at MDI High School.

Burgess says the high school is on a mission to being carbon neutral by 2030.

This is not the first green initiative the school in bar harbor has taken on. The high school is also Maine's first school to completely offset its electricity use by having installed 1,400 solar panels a few years ago.

"The kids aren't breathing the diesel exhaust, I'm not breathing the diesel exhaust. I am coughing less than I used to," said Van Gorder. "We estimate we are going to save about $5,000 a year in fuel, $2000 a year on standard maintenance, no oil changes, no filter changes."

"The environment that we have here we are trying to go green so it was nice to try and see what other things are out there, between the solar panels we have, and we also have chargers here at the high school that other people come and they charge their vehicles also," Hann said.

MDI High School will host an official ceremony to celebrate Maine's first electric school bus on October 12.

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