Alaska’s first electric school bus operating efficiently in minus 40-degree temperatures

Alaska’s first electric school bus operating efficiently in minus 40-degree temperatures

Regardless of minus 40-degree temperatures, an all-electric school bus is performing its duty with ease in Alaska. The battery-electric school bus in question has been built by North Carolina-headquartered Thomas Built Buses Incorporated, and it has been successfully operating in the town of Tok in Alaska since October last year.

The success of Thomas Built school bus has undoubtedly eased the concerns that battery-powered vehicles are not capable of operating in extreme weather conditions. The belief that EVs can’t smoothly operate in sub-zero temperatures has thus far kept many potential buyers away from EVs, particularly in colder regions. However, more and more manufacturers are now coming forward with EVs that can efficiently prove their worth even in sub-zero temperatures. A great example of this is the Thomas Built Buses Inc.’s Electric School Bus in Tok, Alaska.

The operator, called Tok Transportation, revealed that it had paid just $50,000 for the aforementioned electric school bus, which is actually worth $400,000. The lion’s share cost of the remaining $350,000 was borne by the Alaskan Energy Authority. The grant from the government agency also paid for solar panels that are used to charge the electric bus. The commercial EV is capable of covering a distance of up to 138 miles on a single charge, but as it has to cover only around 30 miles per day to pick and drop students, range anxiety has never been an issue.

Gerald Blackard, a co-owner of Tok Transportation, highly praised the commercial EV. He said that the zero-emissions school bus never missed its duty since its launch in October 2020.

Speaking on the topic, Blackard said, “It has not missed a single day of school. COVID didn’t slow it down at all. It is COVID-resistant; I guess you could call it. On January 27th, we had 38 below; the bus’s efficiency that day was 3.46 kilowatts per mile. So this fall, in August-September, we were running between 1.4 and 1.7 kilowatts per mile.”

In spite of success of Tok's electric school bus, it remains the only electric school bus in entire Alaska. However, its success over the past year is highly expected to encourage more remote northern school districts to switch from conventional fossil fuel-powered vehicles to environment-friendly EVs.