Minnesota's first electric school bus could save thousands of dollars

It's a zero-emissions electric bus, the first of its kind in the state.

When students at Lakeville schools return to classes this fall, the kids who ride the bus will have something to brag about.

That's because they'll be riding to and from school in the eLion – a zero-emission, fully electric school bus.

Great River Energy, Dakota Electric Association and Schmitty & Sons teamed up to buy the bus for the 2017-18 school year as part of a first-of-its-kind pilot program, Great River Energy says.

While it may look like a regular yellow school bus (which typically runs on diesel), the eLion is completely powered by wind energy, so it has no carbon footprint. Lion Electric Co., the company that makes the bus, says using one eLion is the equivalent of taking five cars off the road, or eliminating 23 tons of greenhouse gases.

How it works

The bus uses five rechargeable batteries that give it a 100-mile range. That may not sound like a lot, but it's enough – the American School Bus Council says the average school bus route is only 66 miles per day.

The bus takes 4-6 hours to charge, and it'll take advantage of Great River Energy's Revolt program – which makes sure wind accounts for all the power the bus needs.

And since the eLion is made in Canada, it's already been proven to work in a cold climate, Great River Energy said.

It could also save the school district a lot of money. That's because electric vehicles have less parts, requiring less maintenance. And electricity prices are less expensive per mile traveled. The Lion Electric Co. expects the eLion to save $12,000 compared to a regular bus.

The pilot program will test that by comparing the economic and emissions benefits of the eLion to a new diesel bus. The program also aims to demonstrate how electric buses perform in a cold weather climate and on suburban and rural bus routes.

And there's another pretty cool bonus: kids will be able to hear the electric bus coming because it'll be bumping some jams.

Like other electric vehicles, the bus is very quiet when it's running, so the eLion comes with a set of speakers that play loud music whenever the bus is going 20 mph or slower. The music is customizable for each bus as a fun, added feature.

Sounds almost as cool as this bus.

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