Electric cooperatives, transportation company launch Minnesota’s first electric school bus program

Beginning this fall, some Minnesota students will be transported to and from school on an all-electric school bus as part of a first-of-its-kind program in the state.

This opportunity is made possible through a collaboration between Schmitty & Sons, Dakota Electric Association and Great River Energy to launch a program that will demonstrate the technology of a battery electric school bus in a cold-weather climate as well as on longer suburban and rural routes.

“We’re also seeking to document the economics of the bus on our system and as part of Schmitty & Sons’ bus fleet, including overall operation and maintenance cost savings and the calculation of emissions reductions,” said David Ranallo, manager of member services and marketing at Great River Energy. “

The eLion bus, manufactured by Canada-based Lion Electric Co., appears like a regular diesel school bus but is powered 100 percent by electricity. The 72-passenger bus contains up to five batteries, giving it a range of 100 miles per charge, which fits well within the average 66-mile daily route of a school bus in the United States. It can recharge overnight when electricity demand – and cost – is lower, ensuring that it’s ready to go the next morning when a bus driver hits the road.

“We’ve looked at other fuel-alternative school buses but haven’t seen any additional advantages like we have with the eLion model,” said Bill Forbord, COO of Schmitty & Sons. “It’s a quiet, smooth ride and has the next generation of operational and safety features. It’s also very user-friendly for the driver.”

The three companies are using this program as an opportunity to promote and educate the public on the value of an energy-efficient and carbon-free technology.

“We are thrilled at the opportunity to bring this technology to our members,” said Jane Siebenaler, Dakota Electric Association business account executive. “Because of this collaboration, we are able to strengthen a member relationship, pilot cutting-edge electric bus technology and lay the foundation for what could be an excellent, energy-efficient school bus option.”