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Sooke school board agrees to make all future buses electric

Board to ask province to increase funding to cover the extra up front cost
Al Kowalko drives Sooke School District’s first electric bus that began operation in May. The board decided on June 15 that all future buses will be electric, asking the province for more funding to support the program. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)

The Sooke School Board is buying another electric school bus and decided that all future buses will be electric.

The decision was made at a special board meeting on June 15.

The upfront cost is higher, but school board chair Ravi Parmar said the district is projecting a $10,000 saving per year in maintenance. There are fewer moving parts in an electric bus, so less mechanical work is needed. The electric buses cost about $100,000 more than diesel, so savings from maintenance will be realized over a decade.

Typically the province pays for new buses as school boards require them, but they only pay the cost of a diesel bus — around $150,000. So right now, the school board has to dip into reserve funds to cover the difference. That’s not something they’re comfortable doing, Parmar said.

At the meeting, the board decided to ask the province to increase the funding allowance to cover the entire cost of electric buses for those districts that want and can electrify the fleet. They’ll write a letter to the province, and while Parmar said they don’t have a lot of power to get the government to agree, he hopes they’ll recognize the efforts the Sooke School District is making towards meeting the Clean B.C. targets.

RELATED: West Shore proud owners of B.C.’s first electric school bus

Of the school district’s 50 buses, the first two electric ones started transporting students in May. This month’s purchase will be on the road for the new school year in September. And gradually the whole fleet will be replaced with electric models as the other 47 buses reach the end of their useful lives.

As for Sooke, it’s only a matter of time, and a bit of technological advancement before the whirring buses will be seen commuting students the 75 kilometres from Port Renfrew to the Edward Milne Community School in Sooke. The buses can hold a charge for 180 kilometres, and the district is playing it safe by running them on short routes near the charging station.

The school district has not provided the increase to their electricity bill, but estimated they’re saving $800 monthly in fuel costs for the two buses already running.

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