Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)

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

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

All aboard the electric school bus! Students in Langford and Colwood have been riding in emission-free style since Monday on the province’s first electric school bus.

The Sooke School District board of education made the decision to buy two electric buses last year, but it was only with funding from the Ministry of Education and two grants that the wheels started rolling.

The two buses — one started running students May 3, the other will get here mid-month — plus two charging stations cost upwards of $765,000. The province contributed half the cost, a Carbon Neutral grant and a grant from the Association of School Transportation Services of BC totalled $183,000 and the board covered the remaining $232,000.

It’s a hefty upfront cost, but school board chair Ravi Parmar said they’re looking forward to long-term savings coming from the reduced maintenance needed for electric engines, and of course no fuel costs.

The electrical bill will be thicker — the buses need to charge for about six hours a night — but the district could not provide an exact cost estimation. They do expect the savings to be “substantial.” The standard diesel bus burns through 7,000 to 8,000 litres of diesel per year.

ALSO READ: New Langford schools on schedule

SD62 is the first to hit the pavement, but 12 other districts have also jumped on the e-bus train, buying a provincial total of 18 buses. The province has allocated $13 million to help with school bus purchases, including electric buses, which cost about $350,000 each compared to $150,000 for an equivalent diesel bus. There will be eight electric buses on the Island by the end of the school year.

Driver Al Kowalko is at the helm of the new bus. He says the most notable change is how quiet it is.

“You can hear the kids talking a lot more, which is sometimes good and sometimes not so good I guess,” he said with a laugh.

It’ll develop a rattle over time, he expects, but for now it’s a smooth ride.

Kowalko, who’s on his ninth year of driving buses for SD62, says they’ve been charging up between routes, but don’t really need to. The bus can go 180 kilometres on a full charge, more than enough for the route he takes.

Students on lucky route No. 3, serving Sangster, Wishart and Happy Valley Elementary, and Royal Bay and Belmont Secondary schools all got a small commemorative card that says: I rode the first electric school bus in B.C.

SD62 transportation manager Tracey Syrota hopes the fleet with be gradually electrified as buses reach the end of their life, but that will depend on the budget. The next best alternative are buses that run on propane, which Syrota says is less damaging to the environment than the diesel standard school buses use. SD62’s fleet of 50 buses already has two of these.

RELATED: Electric buses should be on the road soon in Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district


Do you have a story tip? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Electric vehiclesSD62West Shore

 

School Board chairperson Ravi Parmar is pumped to be at the front of the province’s first electric school bus, driven by Al Kowalko on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)

School Board chairperson Ravi Parmar is pumped to be at the front of the province’s first electric school bus, driven by Al Kowalko on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)

Just Posted

Victoria Truth Centre and Long-term Inmates Now in the Community (L.I.N.C.) Society are hoping to replicate in Langford the format used on Emma’s Farm in Mission, pictured here. (Patrick Penner/Black Press Media)
Victoria Truth Centre hopes to grow transformative justice in Langford

Purchase proposal would see offenders, survivors and families work on organic vegetable farm

Improving safety at Keating Cross Road and the Pat Bay Highway is the goal of the flyover project currently in the works. The province aims to reveal the final cost and design this fall. (Screencap/Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Final budget, design of Keating flyover in Central Saanich still in the works

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says information coming by this fall

Tyson Muzzillo, regional manager of BC Cannabis Store, welcomes shoppers to their Uptown location, opening on June 16. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Government-run cannabis store opening at Saanich’s Uptown

BC Cannabis Store the first for government in Greater Victoria, 27th in province

Mural artist Paul Archer will soon begin work on a piece on the rear of a building at 100 Burnside Road West. (Gorge Tillicum Community Association)
Back of Burnside building in Saanich to feature mural of hope and positivity

Artist Paul Archer says subject will inspire memories, depict children’s future, sunshine, flowers

The stretch of trail north of Royal Bay Secondary connecting to Painters Trail at Murray’s Pond will be closed temporarily this week for invasive species removal. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood trail behind Royal Bay Secondary temporarily closed for invasive species removal

Cloure in effect from 9 a.m. Wednesday to 10 a.m. Friday this week

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Most Read