ALBERTVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Christmas came early for the Albertville City Schools (ACS) system as they were awarded $7.5 million to add electric school buses to its fleet as soon as next school year.
The $7.5 million award was provided by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean School Bus program and will go towards 19 new electric buses for the school system.
Electric buses will make up around 30% of the fleet, with the other 70% being the traditional diesel buses.
ACS says the electric buses will be used for ‘inner-district’ travel, and the diesel buses will be used for extracurricular activities. On a full charge, electric buses can go for 135 miles.
Electric buses have fewer moving parts than traditional buses, resulting in lower maintenance costs and you don’t have the fuel them. According to ACS, those maintenance and fuel savings total around $50,000 each year.
The Clean School Bus program is a rebate competition for school districts that hopes to improve air quality in communities, reduce greenhouse gas pollution and better protect children’s health.
The rebate will fully cover 19 brand-new electric buses and 10 charging stations. These buses will replace older, diesel buses in the fleet. The new buses will generate $150,000 each year in fleet renewal funds for the next 10 years, according to ACS.
The rebate per bus totals $375,000, plus $20,000 per bus in infrastructure funding, which includes the purchase of charging stations.
As part of the rebate program, ACS will scrap buses manufactured in 2010 or before. Buses manufactured after 2011 will be sold, creating additional income for the system.
ACS said training will be available for drivers and maintenance technicians to properly care for the electric buses.
On Thursday, the Board of Education voted unanimously to move forward with the rebate program.
Transportation Supervisor Jimmy Umphrey received praise for his work on the project with one leader saying, “This is a result of his forward, out-of-the-box thinking.”
Umphrey says part of his research was reaching out to other transportation supervisors across the country for their experiences with electric buses to see how they could fit into the ACS fleet.
“This is a tremendous opportunity our school system has been given with our tax dollars coming right back here,” Umphrey said in a statement. “I feel very blessed for us to be selected, and I want to say thank you to my staff for their support in helping us get to where we are today.”
The EPA received around 2,000 applications from high-needs school districts including school districts with more than 20% of students in poverty, rural school districts, tribal school districts and districts in underserved and overburdened communities were prioritized.
As a rural school district with more than 80% of its students living in poverty, ACS was awarded a total of $7,505,000 to purchase the buses. The goal is to see new buses hit the road beginning in the 2023-2024 school year.
Thanks to the rebate, the system will not incur any expenses in relation to purchasing the buses.
“Effective transportation plays a critical role in student success, and we are proud to be a recipient of this rebate which helps promote an overall healthier environment for our students and communities,” Superintendent Dr. English said in a statement.
As part of the commitment, ACS will run the buses for at least five years and commit to an audit of the district’s expenditures to ensure they comply with federal program standards.