Education

Students get a healthier, quieter ride as Twin Rivers rolls out electric, natural gas buses

Take a ride on Twin River school district’s new electric buses

Twin Rivers Unified School District unveiled a set of brand-new electric and natural gas buses on Wednesday May 29, 2019, for use at its 52 school sites.
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Twin Rivers Unified School District unveiled a set of brand-new electric and natural gas buses on Wednesday May 29, 2019, for use at its 52 school sites.

Kids in northern Sacramento County public schools are about to get a quieter bus ride to and from school.

Twin Rivers Unified School District unveiled a set of electric and natural gas buses Wednesday morning for use at its 52 school sites.

The five new Blue Bird electric vehicles come equipped with rear backup cameras, air conditioning and bright blue bumpers and hubcaps, while the CNG buses – which are fueled by compressed natural gas and emit low levels of nitrogen oxide – have similar features but with green accents.

“They provide clean air for the kids riding the bus, they provide clean air for the community instead of that smoky diesel bus running down the road,” Twin Rivers Director of Transportation Tim Shannon said.

By the end of this week, the district will also get four new eLion electric buses, Shannon said. Twin Rivers has been running 16 older electric buses for about two years, bringing its total to 25, he said.

Out of its 34 CNG buses, the district’s newest one is only a few months old, Shannon said, but the oldest ones have been in use for about 20 years.

Almost a third of the district’s fleet is either electric or CNG, Shannon said, and within a year, the district plans to add 10 more electric buses. In three to five years, it hopes to replace all its diesel buses with electric and natural gas buses, he said.

“Part of the motivation is the fact that it’s good for our kids and community, the second is that it exposes kids within the disadvantaged community to new technology and increases the possibility of them pursuing different employment opportunities down the road,” Shannon said. “One of the other factors is that it allows us to modernize our fleet, which is very old.”

Pam Caro, a regional sales manager for Blue Bird, said the electric buses have a battery range of about 120 miles and can charge up at a station near Grant Union High School in Del Paso Heights in six to eight hours.

The CNG buses emit about a tenth the amount of waste as a standard diesel bus, Caro said.

“A lot of bus drivers say, ‘I want to drive it,’ ” Caro said. She added that the electric buses can benefit students with asthma, who may react poorly to diesel fumes, or those with special needs, who are more comfortable with their quieter ride.

“It gets students to and from school in a way that’s healthier for them for their lungs and they’re able to actually concentrate at school, so it’s an overall benefit, not just for them, but for the community,” Caro said.

The electric buses cost the district about $100,000 per bus, but an additional $100,000 was provided by the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District and $220,000 was provided by a cap-and-trade program through the California Air Resources Board, Shannon said.

The CNG buses cost the district about $160,000 per bus and CARB provided $45,000, Shannon said.

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