Island schools pursuing electric bus fleet

The district is looking to partner with the Aquinnah tribe.

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A grant is being pursued purchase five electric buses. —MV Times

School officials are looking to purchase five new electric buses, and they’re looking for support from the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah). 

On Thursday, The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) Committee unanimously approved applying for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Clean School Bus Grant. The plan is to apply for the funding through the Up-Island Regional School District, which is considered a priority district for serving the tribe. 

While districts without the priority designation can also apply for the clean bus grant, transportation consultant Richard Labrie told the committee that up-Island schools could receive around $345,000 per bus compared to about $50,000. 

Martha Vanderhoop from the Aquinnah Wampanoag Education Department said the council would want some answers to determine why the tribe should support the funding request. Vanderhoop asked if one of the buses could be dedicated for Chlmark and Aquinnah, or if the tribe could use one of the vehicles for their after-school program.

“There are a lot of issues with transportation as far as kids coming back very late,” she said. 

Martha’s Vineyard superintendent Richie Smith said that he and Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools business administrator Mark Friedman will present the grant to the tribal council, but didn’t want to “conflate” an Islandwide transportation and staffing issue with the grant. 

“Ultimately, it’s something that’s helpful for the entire Island community,” he said. “We’re talking about … a multimillion [dollar] grant that will be helpful all around.”

Transportation subcommittee members agreed to hold a meeting to hear the issues the tribe has experienced on Wednesday, Jan. 31. 

Labrie said only 16 school districts in the state were considered priority districts. “It’s more than serving a Native American population,” he said. “It’s also based on other demographics of the community. It’s a combination of factors that makes you a priority district.” 

The priority districts of Boston, Fall River, New Bedford and Worcester, became recipients of the award to fund a total of 85 electric school buses earlier this month, according to a Jan. 8 press release from the Office of Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Priority districts have a higher chance of receiving the grant as well. 

School officials said that the electric buses would be beneficial since carbon emissions would be reduced and they are cheaper to maintain than combustion engines in the long run.

The up-Island school committee has already voted unanimously to apply for funding, contingent upon cooperation with the high school committee. A technicality requires the high school to apply for the funding grant rather.

“Even though they’re their own regional school district, it’s the high school district that owns the bus fleet, has all the bus drivers, and all the transportation supervisors, et cetera,” he said. “The high school has responsibility for all of the transportation for the schools on the Island.” 

In turn, Friedman recommended applying to replace five diesel-powered school buses with electric ones through an intermunicipal agreement between the two school districts. With the agreement, the up-Island schools would purchase the buses but the high school would manage the vehicles. An agreement was not available during the meeting and still needed to be drafted. 

An issue raised was whether other on-Island districts could use the buses. Friedman said the current structure allows buses to serve students of the up-Island schools and high school students from the up-Island towns, adding that options will be explored on whether the buses can be used in other situations. “I don’t expect that will be a problem, but we will explore that before we recommend final dotting of i’s and crossing of t’s,” he said. 

O’Brien asked whether additional charging stations would be installed and who would be paying for the infrastructure upgrades. 

According to MVRHS facilities manager Mike Taus, there are currently 400 amps available for the electric buses, 200 of which was added for the most recently acquired electric buses. An addition of 600 amps would be needed if five more electric buses were acquired.  

Labrie said the schools could receive federal and state funding for the infrastructure additions, such as through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. He added that there may also be rebates available from Eversource. 

After further discussion, high school committee member Roxanne Ackerman, who is also a member of the up-Island school committee and chairs the transportation subcommittee, moved to take the steps needed to support the up-Island school committee’s grant application. When high school committee chair Kathryn Shertzer asked for an amendment that the approval be contingent upon the tribe’s support, Ackerman said this was not a requirement for the grant; the issues Vanderhoop brought up should be addressed separately from the application.

The high school committee unanimously approved Ackerman’s motion and authorized Shertzer to sign a “school board awareness certification” as a part of the application process.

27 COMMENTS

  1. Was there any discussion about how effective the two electric buses the school already operates have been? It would be interesting to see the amount of downtime they experience in relation to the conventional busses. What good does it do to get a grant for busses that sit idle in the lot for the majority of the time. Conventional busses can also navigate through a few inches of storm surge at five corners or by the OB harbor but it’s very dangerous to run a battery operated vehicle through salt water. On another note doesn’t it seem a bit sleazy that we’re taking advantage of the Tribe’s preferential government status for the benefit of the predominately non-Tribe users of these busses?

    • John– I agree– it would be interesting to find out
      all those things you mention. Why don’t you quit
      whining about things you know nothing about, do some
      research and report your findings to us.
      I would be particularly interested in an apples to
      apples comparison of actual down time for
      diesel busses as compared to electric ones.
      The VTA has been operating electric
      busses for a long enough time to have a large
      enough database to easily answer all your questions.
      Go check out some stats from big cities that
      have hundreds of them.
      You should be able to easily find answers to all
      your questions.
      By the way– I didn’t notice any electric
      busses stranded or on fire last month.
      I did however see a diesel bus broken down
      on state road going out of V.H Near Look st.
      a few weeks ago. — I guess the hill going out
      of town was just too much for it’s inferior
      last century technology.
      And it wasn’t even raining.

    • It would be great if municipalities could get the millions of dollars in federal money that the tribe gets every year.

    • hat is the down time experience with the MVT electric busses? They have the the Island experience.

      “What good does it do to get a grant for busses that sit idle in the lot for the majority of the time.” A vast majority of school busses sit idle a majority of the time, making them ideal for electrification.

      The electrics in electrical vehicles tend to be far more waterproof than ICE. Have the MVT busses been challenged by water level?
      All busses have at least 2 kWh of battery on board.

      “but it’s very dangerous to run a battery operated vehicle through salt water.” Think submarines and underwater cables. Not to mention putting electric turbines in the water. and then there are electric boats, in salt water.

      It seems sleazy to bring up the Tribe’s preferential government treatment status just because the White’s will benefit too.

      There are so many ways to say that you hate modernity without using the word hate.

      You no doubt remember When America Was Great, when you came of age, nothing must change .

  2. Yes! Electric buses are the right next step!! So glad we’re pursuing electric vehicles 😁
    This is GOOD for Everyone!

  3. What is the down time experience with the MVT electric busses? They have the the Island experience.

    “What good does it do to get a grant for busses that sit idle in the lot for the majority of the time.” A vast majority of school busses sit idle a majority of the time, making them ideal for electrification.

    The electrics in electrical vehicles tend to be far more waterproof than ICE. Have the MVT busses been challenged by water level?
    All busses have at least 2 kWh of battery on board.

    “but it’s very dangerous to run a battery operated vehicle through salt water.” Think submarines and underwater cables. Not to mention putting electric turbines in the water. and then there are electric boats, in salt water.

    It seems sleazy to bring up the Tribe’s preferential government treatment status just because the White’s will benefit too.

    There are so many ways to say that you hate modernity without using the word hate.

    You no doubt remember When America Was Great, when you came of age, nothing must change .

  4. VTA should be in charge of bussing students. They have all equipment for maintenance and the best waynto figure out routes. For example high school students could be given bus passes. VTA currently does all maintenance on busses now. Schools spend way to much on transportation.
    They take bus drivers and make them administrators. Not a good idea! They have no idea how to negotiate these contracts. Yes there plan is very sleazy. I am retired bus driver and there system currently is dysfunctional. They only know to spend money.John

  5. No tax payer will be harmed in going after this free money. It’s there it’s available we might as well. Let the greed that affects everyone these days even school systems looking to grab money wherever they can. Follow the lead of the VTA and get all the electric buses you can that still run empty. Good thing taxpayers have deep pockets and endless amount of money.

  6. One thing is certain is that with more EV’s on the road the more data we have to study and it doesn’t bode well for EV’s

    https://www.consumerreports.org/cars/car-reliability-owner-satisfaction/electric-vehicles-are-less-reliable-than-conventional-cars-a1047214174/

    Electric Buses don’t fair well in cold climate losing 80% of their range

    https://vermontdailychronicle.com/new-electric-school-buses-lose-up-to-80-range-in-winter/

    NYC had to scrap thei plan to electrify thei garbage fleet because they couldn’t handle plowing snow like good ole diesel trucks

    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/2455646/new-york-turns-back-to-diesel-snow-plows-and-leaves-electric-vehicles-behind/#:~:text=In%20total%2C%20the%20electric%20vehicle,away%20from%20diesel%20snow%20plows.

    And it’s becoming very clear that it’s just too expensive and unreliable.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/transportation/2023/08/12/proterra-bankruptcy-electric-buses/

    EV’s are not friends of the environment and are so much less reliable than ICE engines and are far too expensive. Only rich virtue signaling people think they are the answer. Ask people living in impoverished areas if they think it is a wise use of money to spend building charging stations in underserved communities where people can’t afford to buy electric cars to begin with See the problem?

    • What is the failure of rate EV motors versus ICE?
      How often does ICE need an oil change.

      The average price for new non-luxury vehicles in January 2024 is standing at $45,283.
      There are 6 models of electric cars on the market for under $30,000.
      A 2023 Chevy Bolt with 8,000 miles on it just sold for $21,500, on Island.
      What problem do you see?

      Bashing electric in the press has become popular. Bashing sells.

      • Hess, I provided the answer to reliability. Click on the Consumer Reports findings of the unreliability of EV’s. You’re welcome.

      • LOL…

        “A 2023 Chevy Bolt with 8,000 miles on it just sold for $21,500, on Island.
        What problem do you see?”

        Tells me that someone had buyers remorse… and took a bath on resale since the 2023 volt had a MSRP of 28k.

        • Sorry I got the miles wrong 2,000.
          The original buyer is a national rental company.
          They can’t get the tax rebate, they can it pass it though .
          They are still buying electrics.
          What problem do you see?
          Can you see the annual increase in the electric vehicle sales rate.
          The horse was replaced by the ICE, the ICE is being replaced by the electric motor. (Washing machines were originally ICE.)
          The earth was created a long long time ago, it continues to evolve.
          The big deal was learning how to use fire.
          We just don’t need that much fire anymore.
          We don’t need to light a cylinder of gasoline/air on fire 25 times a second.
          ICE has so many moving/precision parts.

          • Hess, I got something wrong too. The Chevy Volt was closer to 30k. lol. And yes I can see the national sales rates of EV and they are tanking.
            https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2023/11/14/ev-sales-2023-slow-inventory-pile-up/71572499007/
            The ICE engine and washing machines improved productivity and saved time. The EV not so much. All that time waiting to charge and don’t have the “horsepower” to do commercial and industrial jobs. I’m not saying that as a secondary luxury market in elite golf community that EV’s don’t have a place just not on farms, mountainous and cold regions. The range is terrible and they recommend that you only charge to 80% and don’t deplete below 20% for battery health which reduces range by 40%. EV can’t compete with the IcE for what we need and demand to be productive.

    • The great thing about internet news is that you can always find what you want to be true.
      I f you want to see the that the 2020 election was stolen all you have to do is watch 2000 Mules. It’s the God’s honest truth.

  7. I was riding in someone else’s electric car yesterday and they said they love it. Costs them about 4 cents per mile to operate. They said they will only buy electric cars going forward

    • But what about range?
      Some of then only get 100 miles.
      They will never be practical on Island as big as the Vineyard…

  8. For those who love electric cars spoiler alert electric school busses very different.We have 2 electric busses already that can only run 2 hours after a 14 hour charging , their battteries hang below bus, vta are atop busses guessing batteries atop students heads not acceptable, nor do they work with puddles
    I think the word free should include free for those who need it. We have our hand stretched out far constantly they were built for congested polluted cities doesn’t feel very polluted here they’re just not practical here you cannot bring them off island. No charging ports.We need gas buses for any driving done once school is in session as the electric need to charge all day to be able to take an hour ride in the afternoon. talk to the Vineyard school Bus Drivers they will tell you anytime you put on the radio ,the heat or the fan in the summer. You are using the electricity recently one made it from the high school to Vineyard Haven then headed to boys and girls club,By the time It reached Edgar town. It was done. Good luck when there’s traffic here.

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