It is imperative to develop a plan for both the infrastructure needed to charge your new electric school bus and the associated operational shifts (e.g., route planning, parking arrangement and charging schedules.)
You might start by looking at your current fleet and operations, your replacement and budgeting cycles and the current depot or facilities where buses go at night, and then determine the best routes for electric school buses and locations for charging.
You should also consider how to deploy buses in an equitable way that maximizes health and social benefits for disadvantaged communities. For example, you could place electric school buses on routes through low-income neighborhoods or those with lower air quality.
Finally, you should think about what comes after your first deployment. There are lots of ways to plan your first round of facility upgrades to minimize future costs. If your district has committed to full fleet electrification, you may consider hiring a consulting firm to create a robust plan for operations and phased deployment.
Things to do:
- Hire a project manager or an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) firm to lead planning if needed
- Assess your current and anticipated fleet, routes and usages
- Identify the depots, routes and purposes best suited for an initial electric school bus deployment
- Engage internal and external stakeholders around plan details
- Develop an operations plan
- Conduct an equity review to identify potential risks or unintended consequences of the proposed plan
Questions to consider:
- What is your current fleet replacement schedule? How do electric school buses fit into this schedule?
- How many bus routes do you have? What are their lengths? Do they vary in topography?
- What are your seasonal temperature variations? Will you have special heating or cooling needs to account for?
- Which routes would be easiest to put electric school buses on at the start?
- Is there an opportunity to place electric school buses on routes through neighborhoods with worse air quality or to replace your oldest buses first to increase the equity impact of this cleaner technology?
- Do you need to change parking arrangements?
- Who will be responsible for charging and when?
- What internal stakeholders (bus drivers, maintenance workers, dispatch, etc.) need to be consulted and engaged in the planning process and how?
- What external stakeholders (students, parents, caregivers, community groups, etc.) should be consulted and engaged in the planning process and how?
- District transportation director
- Engineering, procurement and construction contractor (if applicable)
- District fleet manager
- District facilities manager
- District energy manager
- District business and procurement staff
- School bus contractor (if applicable)
- Electric utility representatives
- Community organizations, including environmental organizations, environmental justice organizations and organizations that serve the populations around bus depot locations
- Parent and teacher organizations
- Bus drivers, maintenance workers and associated union representatives
- How School Districts Can Include Equity When Choosing Where to Deploy Electric School Buses First – WRI's Electric School Bus Initiative: This article details how school transportation providers can begin to bring equity considerations and data on air quality, income, race and accessibility into their operational planning for school bus electrification.
- The Electric School Bus Series: Successfully Operating in Cold Weather in Three Rivers Michigan – WRI's Electric School Bus Initiative: This article highlights the success of electric school buses operating in a cold weather climate.
- Route Analysis, Range and Efficiency Considerations – US Department of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center: This 16-minute video provides an overview of how to analyze your vehicle routes to determine which routes are best for electric school buses, vehicle range and efficiency considerations.
- Electrifying Transit: A Guidebook for Implementing Battery Electric Buses (Sections 3&4) – National Renewable Energy Laboratory: This comprehensive resource covers all elements of planning and implementing electric buses.
- Fleet Electrification Roadmap for Grossmont Union High School District – ENGIE Impact: This case study from one of the largest school districts in San Diego, California, shows how the district’s technical and financial needs were assessed to create a fleet electrification roadmap.