UniteGPS – Equipped with recent grant money, the School District of Manatee County in FL may be launching an electric school bus pilot for the 2022-2023 school year with state funding from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

School bus picture
Electric bus pilot in Manatee County, Florida

Considered to be an “air quality priority area” according to the FDEP, Manatee is one of 23 FL counties eligible for over $52 million available for school districts to replace 2009 or older diesel vehicles with electric battery-powered buses. 

Although the grant permitted Manatee County to purchase up to 20 buses, the district will purchase between three and five as a test trial.

“We are in the preliminary stages of this,” said Jamie Warrington, director of transportation for the School District of Manatee County. “I feel like it’s going to happen but on this small scale to start out.”

Electric school bus pilot in Florida

Grant money from the FDEP’s Electric Bus Project will cover 75 percent of each vehicle, costing around $300,000. In turn, school districts would pay approximately the same amount as a standard diesel bus costing $110,000. 

If approved during the spring school board meeting, included in the budget are the new state-of-the-art charging stations at the Bradenton fleet facility. Top-notch machinery can charge a bus in four hours while less expensive stations could require up to eight. 

However, Warrington says that the school district wants to be decisive about this matter, discussing and researching everything from the correct power stations to assigning an electric school bus to the appropriate routes.

“There are a lot of factors. We don’t want a large bus to run out of charge out east with kids on board. Environmentally, this is the right thing to do, but we also want to be practical.”

Once equipped with the electric school bus fleet, the district plans to learn more about the 100-mile driving range and optimal charging times. How far an electric school bus can travel with a single charge is a particularly relevant issue in Manatee County based on its rural areas with school routes ranging between 100 and 180 miles.

According to Warrington, “Electric vehicles are good (in urban areas) because when you hit the brake, it regenerates and helps keep the battery charged. When you get into a county that has a lot of rural areas, there isn’t a lot of braking, so you’re limited as to how far you can go on a single charge.”