Alaska’s first electric school bus heading to Tok

Alaska's first electric school bus is headed to Tok.
Alaska's first electric school bus is headed to Tok.(ktuu)
Published: Oct. 7, 2020 at 4:34 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It looks like an ordinary school bus sitting on the lot in front of TrailerCraft, an Anchorage truck dealership, but the bus in question is actually the state’s first electric school bus, and it will soon be heading north to serve students in Tok.

An Alaskan Energy Authority grant helped purchase the bus, according to Stretch Blackard with Tok Transportation. Blackard said it will replace one of seven diesel busses in his fleet.

While the cost is higher than a standard bus, between $350,000 and $400,000, Blackard said the electric bus should pay-off in the long run with cheaper fuel costs and maintenance. The industry claims it costs 19 cents a mile to run an electric bus versus 54 cents a mile for a diesel bus.

Part of the grant also compelled Blackard to put solar panels in the bus barn in Tok which will help with electricity costs while the bus recharges. Blackard said there are other advantages.

“The benefits [are] the sound. You don’t have any noise. You don’t have the emissions of the diesel. You don’t have to warm it up or any of those kinds of things, so that’s the bonus of electricity," Blackard said.

But there are some limitations, including how far the bus can go on a single charge.

“So it has a 135-mile range,” said Blackard. “We run about 70 miles a day so even running the heaters, which will pull more electricity, we should have plenty of distance to go on the batteries without running out of charge.”

The North Carolina-based company that built the bus, Thomas Built Buses, is very interested to see how it will perform in Tok’s cold weather, which routinely dips to 40 below in wintertime.

“We do have some concerns about cold and batteries, and that’s part of the things we are going to work through to help Thomas [Built Buses],” said Blackard.

He said the bus will be housed indoors when it isn’t running a route. The hope is to be using it to pick up students as early as next week.

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