HANFORD — Hanford Elementary School District’s new buses are a lot greener — literally and figuratively.
The California Energy Commission's School Bus Replacement Program awarded the district $1.95 million to replace five diesel school buses with electric buses.
The grant program helps schools in disadvantaged and low-income communities throughout the state transition from old, polluting diesel school buses to zero- or low-emissions vehicles, improving children's health by limiting their exposure to transportation-related air pollution and building a greener economy.
HESD Chief Business Official David Endo said the district received an email from the California Energy Commission regarding the school bus replacement grant back in May 2018. The district applied for the competitive grant and was one of the last five districts in the central section to get funded.
“One of the criteria of the grant is that the old bus had to get destroyed, so we replaced five buses,” Endo said.
HESD is the only school district in Kings County with electric buses on the road. The buses ran their first routes on Feb. 1, the first day of in-person classes after winter break. Hanford citizens can easily identify the new electric buses due to their green bumpers and rims.
William Potter, director of Facilities and Operations at HESD, said besides some maintenance differences, the new buses are very similar to the diesel buses the district had previously, so the drivers are familiar with driving and operating them.
Potter said the district was able to put solar panels and a battery charging unit in the bus barn. With the solar, he said they produce enough energy to charge the buses overnight and the buses have about 120 mile range on a full charge.
“We’re able to run the morning route, get all the kids to school, and then we pick them up in the afternoon,” Potter said. “Then we plug them and recharge each evening.”
Potter said some big differences are the new electric buses are a lot quieter and don’t emit the diesel odor.
“You really notice them on the street — they’re really quiet,” he said.
“You can’t even hear them come up on you sometimes — and that’s pretty amazing for a big school bus that typically you’d hear coming down the road,” added HESD Superintendent Joy Gabler.
Gabler said she’s gotten a lot of compliments about the new buses and the students are excited about them too.
“A few parents have commented that their kids have come home and talked about riding on the electric buses and how cool they are,” Gabler said.
Gabler went on to say the district was honored to receive the grant and thrilled to be on the cutting edge of bringing new, nicely outfitted and fully air conditioned electric buses to the streets of Hanford.
“I am beyond honored and proud of the work that was done to secure the grant,” she said. “We’re proud of it.”
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