Electric school bus is first east of Cascades

Clean air, low operating cost among benefits

Article Date: Mar 01, 2023

The first electric school bus for Bend-La Pine Schools is ready to hit the streets of Central Oregon. The bus eliminates tailpipe emissions, reduces noise and saves the district money on fuel costs. It’s the first electric school bus operating in Oregon east of the Cascades.

“We are proud to join the move toward clean transportation,” said Superintendent Steven Cook. “This is good for our community and our students, and it will result in cost savings over time.”

The district acquired the electric bus through Pacific Power’s electric mobility grant program, in conjunction with the Oregon Clean Fuels Program administered by the state Department of Environmental Quality.

“We are thrilled Bend-La Pine Schools was selected for this grant,” said Jackie Wilson, Sustainability and Energy Specialist for the school district. “We have a goal of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and embracing clean energy solutions. This is a great first step toward that goal.”

The school district collaborated with The Environmental Center in Bend in applying for the electric bus funding.

“This is a really good example of how we were able to share our electric vehicle and infrastructure experience to support an amazing partner like Bend-La Pine Schools,” said Neil Baunsgard, the center’s Transportation and Climate Advocacy Manager. “We look forward to sharing the learnings that we gain from the first electric school bus east of the Cascades with other school districts, and involving students in being a part of our transportation future.”

The $157,500 grant went toward the purchase of the LionC bus, manufactured by Lion Electric of Quebec, Canada. It uses a 250-kilowatt electric motor with lithium-ion batteries, with a top speed of 60 mph. Fully charged, the bus can travel up to 125 miles. There’s room for 71 students on board.

Benefits of operating an electric school bus include:

  • Cleaner air: Electric school buses reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than half compared to diesel school buses. Electric buses have zero tailpipe emissions and reduce emissions of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide by more than 80 percent.
  • Safety and comfort: Electric school buses are quiet, reducing noise in neighborhoods. Drivers and students are better able to communicate with each other.
  • Lower cost: Electricity is less expensive than diesel, and prices are more stable over time. The electric bus will save 80 percent of the cost to operate a diesel bus. Electric school buses also have far fewer moving parts and are expected to reduce maintenance costs by as much as 50 percent.

Bend-La Pine Schools has 127 buses in its fleet. Just over half are powered by propane, a cleaner-burning and less expensive fuel than diesel or gas.