This all-electric school bus only has a 135-mile range, which is more than enough to transport students to school in Tok, Alaska. (Image Credit: KTUU)


It may look ordinary, but it’s actually Alaska’s very first all-electric school bus. Soon enough, it will be used to transport students in Tok, Alaska, to school. Constructed by Thomas Built Buses in North Carolina, the Jouley bus was purchased by Tok’s transportation service with the help of an Alaskan Energy Authority grant. It’s also expected to replace one of seven busses in Stretch Blackard’s fleet.


Even though it’s more expensive than an ordinary bus, between $350,000 and $400,000, the electric bus has cheaper fuel costs and maintenance, so it should pay off over time. It only costs about 19 cents a mile to run an electric bus compared to the diesel’s 54 cents per mile. Which, I have to say, isn’t that big of savings per mile.


If you are wondering, the average school bus has a 12 to 15 year lifespan, averaging 250,000 miles driven. That saves about $87,500 lifetime dollars going with an electric bus. However, the average diesel powered school bus is only $110,000. So, the savings doesn't even the scale, in this case. But, at least it's less impactful on the environment.


Additionally, some of the grant money was used to install solar panels on the roof of the bus depot, providing more energy savings while boosting electricity. This is a great idea, especially because Tok is near the Arctic Circle, which means that it’s light there all day long in the summer. This electric bus doesn’t produce any noise, emissions and doesn’t need to be warmed up.


However, there are some limitations. The Jouley bus only has a 135-mile range, but this shouldn’t be a problem since Tok transport workers need to travel 70 miles a day. The excess energy can be used for the heaters to warm up the bus.


Thomas Built Buses monitors the operation of the Jouley bus while it runs in Tok’s freezing temperatures, which can go down to -40C in the winter. When it’s not running a route, the bus is housed indoors.


EVs save more than just gas money?


Electric car manufacturers have claimed that their EVs cost less to own than gas-powered vehicles. According to a study conducted by Consumer Reports, popular EVs are generally less expensive to own over their lifetime than gas-powered cars. EVs that cost less than $50,000 have a $6,000 to $10,000 price drop compared to cars with a combustion engine. (I wonder if this also translates to large EVs like the school bus above.)


The study shows that the Tesla Model 3 brought the most value. It represented a savings of $15,000 compared to both the best-selling car in its class and the Audi A4. This is especially true for plug-in hybrids and estimates for future vehicles, such as Ford’s Mustang Mach-E. The savings could also be quite big if a consumer purchases a five to seven-year-old used EV.


Fuel savings also have a large role in this. Electric vehicle owners spend 60% less keeping their vehicles powered with electricity. Owners that have a car with a range of 250 miles or more can handle 92% of their charging at home rather than using public fast chargers. Maintenance also played a factor. EV owners spent half as much maintaining and repairing their vehicles than those who own gas-powered cars.  Even though repairs could be costly if a consumer purchases a used EV, they could still benefit from a large amount of lifetime savings. 


CR’s study also shows that depreciation was comparable to that for gas vehicles even after incentives were factored in. Even though federal tax doesn’t apply to GM and Tesla, the value proposition differs depending on the amount a state can offer. Weather and electricity potentially have an effect on this. A consumer may not see many gains if they reside in a state with cold weather and high utility rates compared to driving in a state with warm weather year-round at low prices.


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