While the Okanagan Shaka School District’s new electric bus looks much like conventional diesel buses, the technology powering the vehicle is different. The bus is at the Summerland Yard and will be used on bus routes in Summerland. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)

While the Okanagan Shaka School District’s new electric bus looks much like conventional diesel buses, the technology powering the vehicle is different. The bus is at the Summerland Yard and will be used on bus routes in Summerland. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)

Electric school bus acquired for Summerland

Okanagan Skaha School District to transition away from diesel buses

An electric school bus, the first in the Okanagan Skaha School District’s fleet, is transporting students in Summerland.

The new bus marks the start of a plan to transition the school district’s fleet of 18 buses from diesel to electric.

“The bus will be at our Summerland yard. We are working with Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement to finalize the permit as a school bus, and have a charging station built,” said Doug Gorcak, director of facilities for the school district.

While the 76-passenger bus looks the same as conventional school buses, the appearance under the hood is different. Instead of a conventional engine, the bus is powered by a heavy duty permanent magnet motor system. It has the capability of 250 kilowatts or 335 horsepower of peak power and its continuous power is 160 kilowatts or 215 horsepower.

At a full charge, the bus can cover around 220 kilometres and can regenerate power during a drive.

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The school district received $205,544 from the B.C. Ministry of Education and $126,306 from Clean Energy BC to help offset some of the expenses. The total cost of the bus is $363,216 and the school district’s cost is $31,366.

In addition, the school district has installed a charging station at the Summerland yard.

The electric bus is expected to save the school district $10,000 a year in fuel and maintenance costs.

Gorcak said driving the bus is a little different from driving a conventional school bus, as starting and stopping methods are not the same.

Bus drivers with the school district will take turns operating the buses, in order to become familiar with its operation.

While the school district is in the process of converting its buses to electric vehicles, the process could take up to 14 years, Gorcak said. The reason for this time frame is because there is a schedule in place for the replacement of school buses.

In the British Columbia Interior, Vernon was the first school district to acquire one of these electric buses.

Gorcak hopes to see other school districts make the shift to electric bus fleets. “We’re hoping to lead the way so this can continue,” he said.

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