Some students in Nanaimo will be riding to school on new electric buses by the end of this school year.
The B.C. government previously committed to funding the pilot project, and on Thursday morning, May 6, Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district showed off the electric vehicles at its transportation facility. The district is estimating the buses will be on the road by May 25, servicing the Lantzville/north Nanaimo area and the Ladysmith/École North Oyster area.
The two new 76-passenger Type C electrical buses, supplied by Western Canada Bus, come with a price tag of $350,000 each. The pilot project will also include supply and installation of two charging stations at a cost of $25,000.
In addition, the Government of Canada also selected Nanaimo-Ladysmith for a pilot project to fit the buses with seatbelts. Pete Sabo, school district executive director of planning and operations, said the district anticipates successful completion of the pilot, which will run for a full school year, beginning part of this school year and into next.
Sabo said the district expenditure for the buses will be minimal as Transport Canada and B.C.’s education and energy ministries were involved.
“All the project costs were covered by these agencies, so the buses don’t come at any cost to the school district,” said Sabo. “It included an infrastructure, so behind the buses is a building which has an electrical service. B.C. Hydro worked with us and they waived some of the cost for the installation of that electrical service in support of the program.”
In addition, Sabo said there is “significant capacity” for the electrical service.
“While we have two bus charging stations set up … the charging infrastructure is scalable to a total of 10, so we can have 10 electric buses along this side,” said Sabo. “The district is also working with a number of agencies … with respect to grants on infrastructure that could see us studying expanding up to the entire fleet replacement with electrical.”
Sabo also said the district is working with the education ministry and other partners for more electric buses with seatbelts.
“We have a request in last year’s capital plan for replacement of two buses, that meets the ministry’s guidelines … so we’re expecting a ministry capital announcement and we’re hoping that includes two additional bus replacements,” said Sabo.
He said the district can make up the cost difference using its own funds, via local capital, or work with the Canadian Infrastructure Bank for an infrastructure loan. The district will examine this more closely if they receive approval from the ministry, Sabo said.
Nanaimo-area MLAs were pleased with the B.C. government’s contributions to the effort, as Nanaimo-Ladysmith and Cowichan Valley are among the 13 school districts provincewide that are getting electric school buses.
“We’re committed to creating a healthy learning environment for all students,” said Doug Routley, Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA, in a press release. “Investing in electric school buses is just one part of our Clean B.C. plan to ensure a greener tomorrow.”
Jessica Stanley, school board vice-chairperson, was pleased that the buses will be transporting students.
“From a tangible cost perspective, it is hard to really quantify how much benefit this will bring us, but if we have children that are breathing cleaner air, we know they’re going to be healthier. We also know that they’re going to be able to learn better,” said Stanley.