Mountain Parks Electric charges forward with electric school bus |

Mountain Parks Electric charges forward with electric school bus

A demo Proterra electric bus before its first Yellow Route of the Free Ride bus system on March 22, 2018, in Breckenridge. East Grand and West Grand school districts have accepted a proposal from Mountain Parks Electric that could provide the districts their first electric buses.
Summit Daily file photo

Mountain Parks Electric is crunching the numbers for a possible proposal that could land the East Grand School District its first-ever electric school bus.

If it all works out — and everything is still very early at this point — the purchase could get the district an electric bus considerably cheaper than it would otherwise have to pay for a regular diesel bus, said Chris Michalowski, Mountain Parks Electric’s power use advisor, as he walked through some preliminary figures at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

On Wednesday, Michalowski said he did some more digging and discovered that the state is going to be even more generous with its next round of transportation grants so an electric bus could cost the district even less than he thought it would on Tuesday.

Michalowski said that Mountain Parks Electric has been working on crafting a proposal for the district since December. He emphasized the figures are still preliminary, but the effort is definitely progressing.

If it comes to fruition, the purchase of the electric bus would likely involve a state grant, unclaimed monies held by the electric co-op and a relatively small amount of district funding.

Mountain Parks Electric is a nonprofit, and the co-op runs a small profit every year just to show it’s financially viable, Stacie Dellamano, manager of finance and accounting, told the school board. But because it’s a nonprofit, she added, the co-op always returns those profits to its members.

Michalowski explained that the unclaimed money can come from a death, a move or any other reason that someone might leave the co-op without providing Mountain Parks Electric any contact information. The co-op then holds onto that money for three years, after which time it goes into the unclaimed capital credits fund.

“We went to our Mountain Parks board and said, ‘We’re interested in getting an electric bus up here in Grand County,’” Dellamano continued, adding that the co-op could see many benefits from having an electric bus in Grand County.

An electric bus for the school district could be the perfect test case, said Michalowski. He explained that because the school district has set bus routes with consistent, known mileages, and most school buses remain parked throughout the day giving them ample time to recharge, the schools could be the perfect place to start. Other agencies and entities that might want to go electric later could then benefit from the data.

“Yes, we’re fully embracing that,” Michalowski said, adding that if Winter Park Transit or other groups that might utilize electric buses want info, the co-op would be more than willing to share that data.

For the district’s part, he said, East Grand could expect to pay considerably less out of pocket for this electric bus than it would one that runs on diesel. During Tuesday’s presentation, Michalowski asked the board if anyone knew how much a diesel bus costs off the top of their head, and Superintendent Frank Reeves quickly replied: “$152,000.”

Electric buses cost considerably more than that, Michalowski noted, as he said they come in around $400,000 for the ones that offer the maximum range, or about 155 miles per charge. Looking at the state grant, the co-op’s match, the cost of a charger and installation, he believes the final bill for the district would be about $80,000.

Benefits of an electric bus would be reduced fuel costs, less maintenance, lower levels of pollution and reduced noise, just to name a few, Michalowski said, adding that an electric bus also comes in line with local towns’ goals to reduce emissions.

Whether the district will jump at the opportunity remains to be seen. It was hard to gauge how agreeable the school board might be for spending district money on an electric bus, as there was little discussion following the presentation, but no one expressed any opposition to the idea either.

“I think this is a good opportunity for the school to get their hands on an all-electric bus at an affordable price and get some local data about how do they perform,” Michalowski said.

Reeves said transportation is ever changing and it’s happening more rapidly now than ever so locals will have to “stay tuned” to see how this effort unfolds.

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