Amboy school district is going electric

AMBOY — There was a big announcement made by the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday, Oct. 26, which included the Amboy school district.

Amboy was approved a grant worth $790,000.

The bulk of the grant, $750,000 will be used to purchase two electric buses, while the remaining $40,000 will be used for the purchase and installation of two charging units.

“I think it’s both good for the environment and for the bottom line,” Amboy Superintendent Joshua Nichols said. “Diesel is over $5 a gallon. I actually attended a workshop about a year ago and they were talking about how electric buses were running in Alaska and all over the country.

“They were getting great results and the ranges were starting to get into 100-to-150 miles. I thought well, once the cost gets down, it’d be worth looking into.”

The costs of an electric bus did not go down.

However, with the assistance of a federal aid, there is no cost to the school district for the new additions. Only a couple of agreements. 

“The costs have not gone down. Electric buses are still about $150,000 more than a normal bus,” Nichols said. “But the grant completely covers both buses. We do have to exchange two of our old buses as part of the EPA grant. The two buses being replaced are a 2011 and a 2012 and have 80,000-to-90,000 miles on them. The other part of the grant is that we have to run the two buses for five years.

“It’s exciting because we’ll have electric vehicles. It has a lower running cost than a diesel bus, it’s just the electric upfront costs are so high. The grant makes it where there is no upfront cost, just the agreements.

“I can’t wait to see them show up. They will have air conditioning, which is something we have to move toward because of how hot it’s getting. We generally don’t have air on our buses. When we get new ones, I’d like for them to have air conditioning.”

Although the buses, which will be on two of Amboy’s nine routes, are not being ran by diesel, there will still be gas fumes.

Amboy opted to have diesel heaters on the electric buses because of the northern Illinois climate during a long stretch of the school year. If there were electric heaters, the mile range of the buses would go down.

“The diesel heaters provide a little bit of comfort for people like me who are still a little nervous,” Nichols said. “For us, a bus will run its morning route which is about 30-40 miles. It’ll sit during the day and then run another 30-40 miles on its after-school route. With a 100-mile range, they can run their route, come back to charge, run their route, and come back and charge. They will be good to go.

“We can’t take them to Galena for a sporting event or somewhere further than 100 miles because there isn’t charging ability. But for our routes, this is a good idea for us.”

Nichols added Amboy wants to purchase the buses from Lion Electric, which is building a factory in Joliet.


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