The stigma around EVs being unable to perform in extreme weather continues to persist, even though in reality electric vehicles are continuing to prove their worth in increasingly rough conditions. A great example of this is the Thomas Built Buses Electric School Bus which has been operating in the town of Tok, Alaska since October 2020.
Tok Transportation paid only $50,000 for the electric school bus (which is worth $400,000) with an Alaskan Energy Authority grant covering the $350,000 balance. The grant also paid for solar panels which are used to charge the bus. Despite being capable of 138 miles per charge, the school bus only covers around 30 miles a day – so range anxiety is never an issue.
Tok Transportation co-owner Gerald Blackard had the following to say about his zero-emissions bus:
“It has not missed a single day of school. COVID didn’t slow it down at all. It is COVID-resistant, I guess you could call it. On January 27th, we had 38 below, the bus’s efficiency that day was 3.46 kilowatts per mile. So this fall, in August-September, we were running between 1.4 and 1.7 kilowatts per mile.”
Blackard shares the data he collects on the bus with the energy authority, as well as local non-profit organizations. Despite the success of Tok's electric bus over the past year, it remains the only one of its kind in Alaska. Hopefully success stories like this one will encourage more remote northern school districts to make the switch to electric, especially when you consider an electric school bus is over half as cheap to run as a traditional one.