Beverly getting first electric school bus

Courtesy renderingBeverly is slated to receive its first electric school bus this summer. 

BEVERLY — The city has signed a five-year lease for its first electric school bus, with the long-term goal of acquiring an all-electric bus fleet.

The new bus will be delivered this summer and will begin transporting students at the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

Dana Cruikshank, director of transportation for the Beverly Public Schools, said Beverly will become the first community on the North Shore and one of only a handful in the state to have an electric school bus.

"The mayor is actively seeking to have our whole fleet electric, which is certainly the wave of the future," Cruikshank said.

The city began seeking bids for a school bus last summer. The winning bidder was Highland Electric Transportation, a company based in Hamilton.

Highland Electric is buying the bus and a charging station with a $287,936 grant from money that the state of Massachusetts received as a part of a fraud case against Volkswagen. The company admitted in 2015 that it secretly installed software on vehicles designed to cheat state emissions tests.

As part of the settlement, Volkswagen agreed to establish a $3 billion trust to fund national and state projects aimed at offsetting nitrogen oxide emissions caused by the company's actions. Massachusetts is expected to receive more than $75 million.

The city will lease the bus for $24,000 per year for five years, the same that it pays to lease a diesel school bus, said Catherine Barrett, the city's director of grants.

The electric bus will produce zero greenhouse gas emissions, save on fuel costs, and cost less to maintain, according to the city. It has a range of up to 134 miles and can charge in about three hours. A charging station will be set up at the city's school bus yard behind Beverly Middle School.

Cruikshank said he went on a demonstration ride on an electric bus and was "pleasantly surprised" by the power and comfort of the ride.

"The bus kind of reminded me of riding a monorail," he said. "It was just a very, very smooth, very comfortable ride. The power to go up hills was just amazing. They stepped on the pedal and this thing just took off."

Cruikshank the bus was also very quiet, without the clanging of a diesel engine, and had no fumes.

The electric bus will join a fleet of 47 buses that run on diesel fuel. It will replace a current bus that will be retired.

Mayor Mike Cahill said in a press release that transitioning the city's diesel school bus fleet to all electric "is an important part of addressing climate change and protecting the health of thousands of school children in our city."

The electric bus will be manufactured by Thomas Built Buses Inc. of North Carolina and will be powered by electric vehicle technology from Proterra, a California-based company.

Cruikshank said his drivers do not need any additional certification to drive the electric bus, but they will receive training on the brake system, which is different than on the diesel buses.

Cruikshank said it hasn't been determined yet which school bus route the electric bus will be used for.

"I have several drivers that have asked me if they can have it on their route," he said.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535 or pleighton@salemnews.com.

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