Location: Tuscumbia, AL
Fleet Type: Electric School Buses

Narrative

Tuscumbia, the county seat of Colbert County, is an example of small-town America at its best! The city has a rich history and an even brighter future. With a population of over 9,000, the city offers its residents the comfortable atmosphere of a small town with a school system established in 1855.

History was made on December 7, 2023, when Tuscumbia City Schools officials held a press conference and cut the ribbon to recognize the addition of their new, 100% electric school bus. The new Thomas Built C2 Jouley model represents the first bus delivered through the Environmental Protection Agency’s 5-year, $5 billion Clean School Bus Program (CSBP). In Round 1, EPA awarded up to $965 million to fund school bus replacements at four hundred schools.

Superintendent Russ Tate, city, state and Federal officials, Transportation South (the electric bus dealer) and the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition (ACFC), among others, met in front of the new Thomas Built electric bus at Deshler High School to mark the addition of the city’s first electric school bus to its fleet.

“We at Tuscumbia City Schools strive for the very best for our students, drivers, faculty and community,” said Tuscumbia City Schools Superintendent Russ Tate. “We are thrilled to be the first school system in Alabama to receive an electric school bus under the Clean School Bus Program and know this will equip us as we drive into the future.”

Like many school districts and businesses across the country, budget constraints were the primary hurdle to overcome before deciding to replace a retiring diesel bus with an electric model. Ultimately, the school system determined it was in their financial interest to apply for an electric bus through the CSBP that would cover the cost of the bus, the charging infrastructure, and installation. When the $395,000 award was announced, Tuscumbia was the first order submitted nationally to Thomas, according to Bucky Law, president, and CEO of Transportation South.

“Tuscumbia City Schools is a trailblazer,” said Bucky Law. “Tuscumbia and other school systems entering into the electric bus business are blazing a path for not only themselves, but for other school districts and operators in Alabama and across the country.”

The district took full ownership of the process from the CSBP application, equipment installation and bus specifications. The Transportation Director in Tuscumbia did the leg work on the funding application and working with local entities for electric charger installation and utility requirements.

The CSBP award paid 100% of the cost for Tuscumbia City Schools to purchase one Thomas Built Saf-T-Liner C2 Jouley electric bus to replace a 1999 model year diesel school bus. The C2 Jouley is emissions-free and has a 136-mile operating range with up to 226 kWh power, and a charging time of 2-3 hours at a DC charging station.

Tuscumbia anticipates the benefits of adding the Electric Bus to be:

  • Zero emissions, cleaner air for students, drivers, and the public.
  • Reduced cost of fueling and maintenance.
  • No motor noise/very quiet.
  • Well trained dealer support.

Outputs & Outcomes

Outputs:

  • Tuscumbia applied for and received an EPA Clean School Bus grant of $395,000 to purchase the Thomas electric school bus, the charger, and the utility installation of the charging equipment.
  • Tuscumbia currently has seven diesel school buses in addition to the new electric.
  • Acquisition of the electric school bus is estimated to significantly reduce greenhouse gases.

Outcomes:

  • Students and drivers are exposed to less particulate matter, NOx, and other direct health related emissions.
  • The electric buses are quieter, allowing both drivers and students to be more engaged.
  • There is less maintenance and lower fueling costs.
  • Driver satisfaction includes ease of driving, power, and response.
  • The Public and students ask questions about driving “electric.”
  • The cost of total ownership is projected to be almost $175,000 less for the expected life of the bus.

Best Practices & Lessons Learned

Best Practices:

  • Start early – involve the dealer to be front and center and lead the process.
  • Ask many questions to ensure the best solutions.
  • Prepare route analysis for determining the appropriate charger based on the timeline for charging.
  • Analyze the Total Cost of Ownership to determine payback timeline and savings.
  • Involve the electric utility at the very beginning.
  • Find opportunities for funding and utilize a Grant writing expert to ensure a strong submission.
  • Be sure drivers and shop personnel are well trained.
  • Initiate training of service techs before, if possible, the electric bus is received.

Lessons Learned:

  • With the first bus ordered, the total buying cycle/process expectation was changed with more parties responsible for providing their part of the overall solution.
  • Outside partners were now part of the purchase solution, including power companies, contractors for installation of hardware and upfront communication with all parties involved.
  • Maintain communication throughout the process with all parties to ensure that timelines are met for the delivery of the bus.
  • Designate a single contact/Project Manager from the district, the utility company and the school bus vendor.

PDF Version

Tuscumbia Electric School Buses Fleet Story

post contents

Read More Fleet Success Stories