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Havre's electric school buses faring well in winter weather

Electric school bus in Havre
Electric school bus in Havre
Posted at 5:45 PM, Jan 22, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-23 11:47:09-05

HAVRE — In January of 2023, Havre Public Schools added two electric school buses to their fleet. After a year of operation, Havre Public Schools are pleased with how they have performed, even in extreme weather such as the sub-zero stretch earlier this month.

“They do very well,” Woody Woodwick, the Service Attendant for Havre Public Schools said, “They stay warm, and they have a great traction control system, so they're very surefooted on the ice.”
In the year that the buses have been in service, they have required very little maintenance, helped in large part because they do not require engine maintenance.

“That's one of the big cost savings, is there's no oil change, there's no transmission flush,” Woodwick said, “And there is a little bit of grease involved because it has regular driveshaft, regular bearings and regular bus wheels and everything like that, but just virtually none of the engine maintenance.”

The buses also save on brakes via regenerative braking. When slowing down, the motors run backward, causing less wear on the brake pads and generating energy back into the vehicle for more use. The vehicles have performed well enough that Havre is working to add two more electric buses to their fleet.

Electric school bus in Havre
Electric school bus in Havre

“We’re in the process of doing two more right now,” Woodwick said, “Two more on the ground… I don’t see a full fleet of them right now. Our fleet is a mixture of gasoline, diesel and electric. And then four coach buses for down the road for the long trips. But it's just a good tool to have in the toolbox.”

Driving through the deep snow does take off some distance, but Woodwick feels that it is not any different from a gas-powered vehicle using more fuel to power through snow.

Furthermore, the electric buses are noticeably cheaper per mile.

“The diesel busses are going down the road for about $0.56 a mile,” Woodwick said, “Our gasoline busses are close to $0.80 a mile. And these are about $0.23 a mile.”

The buses can go about 100 miles without needing a charge, which works fine for Havre’s routes (around 40 and 80 miles). However, they still need to use the gas-powered vehicles for longer trips out of town.